Hawks can catch Sharks for top spot

ATBLACKHAW­KS SHARKS

Chicago Sun-Times - - Sports - BY LEN ZIEHM

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Now comes the big­gest game yet for the Black­hawks. They visit the San Jose Sharks tonight in the last reg­u­larsea­son meet­ing of two of the teams vy­ing for the Pres­i­dents’ Tro­phy, which goes to the club with the most reg­u­lar-sea­son points.

The Sharks lead the NHL with 78 points, and the Hawks are sec­ond with 76. Both have played 53 games. The Sharks, on a five-game winning streak, won the Pres­i­dents’ Tro­phy last sea­son and are clos­ing in on their third con­sec­u­tive Pa­cific Divi­sion ti­tle. The Hawks, who lead the Cen­tral Divi­sion by 15 points, won the Pres­i­dents’ Tro­phy once, in 1991.

‘‘A big game,’’ coach Joel Quen­neville said. ‘‘Up to this point, it’s the big­gest game on the trip. It sets up first place. I know they’ll be ready to play us.’’

‘‘We’ve been pretty much headto-head with them ev­ery night,’’ Hawks cap­tain Jonathan Toews said. ‘‘We check the stand­ings, and it’s been a bit of a rat race.’’

The Hawks, 4-2 on the eight-game trip, are com­ing off a 4-2 victory Tues­day against the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers, though it left some­thing to be de­sired.

‘‘A win’s a win, but we’ve got to play with a lot more en­ergy [against the Sharks],’’ Toews said.

The last time the Hawks vis­ited HP Pavil­ion, bet­ter known as the Shark Tank, they built a 7-0 lead en route to a 7-2 victory Nov. 25. That came in Mar­ian Hossa’s first game as a Hawk (he scored two goals) and has been a source of em­bar­rass­ment to the Sharks.

The teams split two meet­ings at the United Cen­ter. The Hawks won 4-3 on Nov. 15 on Brent Seabrook’s over­time goal, and the Sharks won 3-2 on Dec. 22 de­spite be­ing

The facts: 9:30, CSN, 720-AM. out­shot 47-14.

Tonight also pro­vides a matchup of two con­tenders for the Nor­ris Tro­phy, which goes to the league’s top de­fense­man. The Hawks’ Dun­can Keith has stepped up his of­fense, al­ready set­ting a ca­reer high with 48 points. Af­ter get­ting two as­sists at Ed­mon­ton, Keith has 23 points in his last 21 games. He has 11 goals and 37 as­sists for the sea­son.

The Sharks’ Dan Boyle is ex­pected to play tonight, but he’ll be com­ing off a two-game lay­off be­cause of an up­per-body in­jury. He has 10 goals and 33 as­sists.

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