SAN JOSE — If the San Jose Sharks stick to their plan, Evgeni Nabokov will be sitting on the bench tonight in Los Angeles, watching a chance at history skate past him.
After playing in 75 of the Sharks' first 80 games, Nabokov is scheduled to rest when the Sharks visit the Kings. San Jose has clinched the Pacific Division title and home ice in the first two playoff rounds, and the Sharks' workhorse goalie deserves a break more than anybody in the NHL.
Trouble is, Nabokov is just two victories shy of tying the single-season league record of 48 wins, set last year by New Jersey's Martin Brodeur. Nabokov's 5-2 victory over the Kings on Tuesday night was his 46th, the fourth-most in NHL history.
"I would prefer to have (both starts), yes, but we've got to think about the playoffs," Nabokov said in his fluent English that includes inflections from both Russia and Kentucky, where he met his wife in the minors.
"I don't think about records. Maybe when I retire. I'm going to lie if I tell you I don't care, but I'm trying to go out and win every game and play well. That's my goal."
Sidney Crosby scored twice and Evgeni Malkin netted the go-ahead goal for host Pittsburgh, which clinched its first division title in 10 years with a 4-2 victory over Philadelphia. ... Zach Parise scored the only goal in a four-round shootout and host New Jersey topped Boston 3-2. ... Chad LaRose scored three goals to lead Carolina past visiting Tampa Bay, 6-2. ... Blackhawks rookie Patrick Kane had a goal and two assists, and Chicago beat visiting Detroit 6-2.