Sports

Sharks hope to end first half on good note

Brian Gionta and the New Jersey Devils fell to goaltender Rick DiPierto and the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.  The Devils were denied their first victory over the Islanders in five attempts this season.
Brian Gionta and the New Jersey Devils fell to goaltender Rick DiPierto and the New York Islanders on Wednesday night. The Devils were denied their first victory over the Islanders in five attempts this season. AP

SAN JOSE -- All 82 games carry equal weight. Each one is worth two points. So on and so forth.

"These games are no more important than any other ones," Sharks coach Ron Wilson said of the four-game homestand that begins tonight against Dallas. "The points count the same."

"These next four are really crucial," Sharks center Joe Thornton said. "We could really put ourselves in a good position and create some distance within our division. We have to take care of business."

Or as defenseman Craig Rivet added: "We're building something right now, and we need to keep it up."

At the very least, the Sharks (25-13-2-5) have an intriguing stretch of games at HP Pavilion over the next eight days, all against Western Conference foes, before they head into the All-Star Weekend break. The ones circled in red are tonight against Dallas and Saturday's benchmark showdown with Detroit. Chicago and St. Louis come to town next week.

The Sharks just completed a brief, and disappointing, road swing. They blew a late lead in Anaheim on Sunday and lost in overtime. Tuesday, they were outplayed in a 5-3 loss to an improving Phoenix team.

But on a positive note, the Sharks have played more consistently of late -- that includes going 3-0-1 during a four-game stretch in San Jose to break the home-ice hex that has plagued them all season.

"Our last 10 games, we've played some of our best hockey," Rivet said. "The last two road games didn't go our way. ... But the last couple of weeks have been good. This is a chance to complete a nice streak going into the break."

FLAMES 3, WILD 2 (SO), at St. Paul, Minn. -- Jarome Iginla scored the winning goal in the shootout, lifting Calgary over Minnesota. Iginla now has 42 points (24 on goals) in 39 career games against the Wild.

FLYERS 5, PANTHERS 3, at Philadelphia -- Daniel Briere scored twice to help Philadelphia deny Florida coach Jacques Martin his 500th win.

RANGERS 2, SABRES 1, at New York -- Petr Prucha and Brandon Dubinsky each had a goal and an assist, and Buffalo's slide reached 10 games.

ISLANDERS 3, DEVILS 1, at Newark, N.J. -- Rick DiPietro had 37 saves and Bill Guerin scored two goals, and New York earned its fifth consecutive win over New Jersey, all this season.

BLACKHAWKS 6, BLUES 1, at Chicago -- Rookie Patrick Kane had two goals and an assist to help Chicago hand St. Louis its third loss in a row.

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