SAN JOSE -- The Sharks head into Saturday's matinee against the Colorado Avalanche well aware they have lost control of their own fate when it comes to the Pacific Division title.
Yes, San Jose still holds a one-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks. But Anaheim has two games in hand, as well as a schedule featuring opponents who are far less formidable than San Jose's.
Only three of Anaheim's past 10 games were against teams likely to be in the playoffs while San Jose has five of its final seven against teams that will be vying for the Stanley Cup. Entering Friday, the Ducks' opponents were averaging 77.8 points this season, while San Jose's were averaging 86.7.
After San Jose's 3-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, coach Todd McLellan talked about the need for his team to win every game and seemed to welcome the challenge.
"It should keep us honest and alert and aware," he told reporters.
Friday, McLellan distanced himself from that "we've got to win them all" declaration, saying it was a response to the phrasing of a particular question.
"We've given up some points over the last game or two that certainly don't put us in a great position," the coach said, "but we'll just keep playing our games and the other teams will play theirs and in two weeks we'll look and figure out who we play."
And while his team has cooled off with a 2-2-2 record as of late, McLellan said he didn't have a problem with the effort.
"I know the group is showing up to play. They want to play hard, they want to do the best that they can. Some nights they don't have it," he said. "But there intentions right now are good. They're not delinquent at all."
"That's a pretty substantial amount of time between goals. It's a little bit of a relief," Boyle said. "It was pretty tough when obviously you're expected to be an offensive player, but I dealt with it as best I could."
McLellan noticed that Boyle has also contributed to the improvement in a struggling power play as of late.
"His game's been sharper over the last little bit, which is nice," the coach said. "The power play has been clicking a little bit more, and he's a big part of that. Maybe he's getting where he needs to be at the right time."
"Speed and skill and they play hard," said defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic of an Avalanche team led by Matt Duchene with 70 points and Ryan O'Reilly with 26 goals. "They have a lot of confidence this year, a young group that has a lot of energy."
For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks.
With just more than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Sharks and Ducks are in a fight for the top seed in the Pacific Division. San Jose has a one-point lead (103-102), but Anaheim has played two fewer games. Here's a look at both teams' remaining schedules:
Saturday at Colorado
Tuesday vs. Edmonton
Thursday vs. Los Angeles
April 5 vs. Nashville
April 9 at Anaheim
April 11 vs. Colorado
April 12 at Phoenix
Saturday at Vancouver
Monday vs. Winnipeg
Wednesday vs. Edmonton
Friday vs. Nashville
April 6 at Edmonton
April 7 at Vancouver
April 9 vs. Sharks
April 12 at Los Angeles
April 13 vs. Colorado
Sharks (47-19-9) at Colorado 46-21-6), noon CSNCA