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Sharks vs. Coyotes: This is the penultimate showdown of penultimate destiny

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After locking up a spot in the playoffs, the Sharks play their second-to-last game of the regular season tonight at 7:00 against the Phoenix Coyotes.

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Hey, that guy on the left looks familiar.
Hey, that guy on the left looks familiar.
Thearon W. Henderson

Coming in to the "2012" season, if you had told me the Sharks would end the year in the same company as the Maple Leafs, Islanders, Canadiens, Ducks, and possibly the Blue Jackets, I would have assumed the worst and that San Jose was in the mix for the draft lottery. And although it seemed the sky had fallen for the Sharks in February, they did a good job of duct-taping it back up. They now have a playoff spot in their grasp tighter than than two inter-leaved phonebooks.

Or to just put it simply, the San Jose Sharks have clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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25-14-7, 57 points 19-18-8, 46 points
5th in Western Conference
11th in Western Conference
7:00 PM PDT | Jobing.com Arena | Glendale, Arizona

TV: CSNCA-HD, NBC Sports Network | Radio: 98.5 KFOX, SJSharks.com

Despite being arguably better than the Ducks, the Coyotes find themselves currently outside the playoff picture. They aren't quite eliminated yet, but they're in a very precarious position. They're currently 5 points back of the Blue Jackets (#Lumbus) for the 8th seed, and only have 6 possible points left to gain. Basically, the Coyotes would have to win out, have Columbus fall apart, and hope that Detroit and Dallas stall as well. Things get even worse for Phoenix when you realize the Blue Jackets play the Stars on Thursday. Then the Stars play the Wings on Saturday. Somebody's going to have to get points. A loss tonight would mean Phoenix is officially out.

Projected Sharks Lineup

T.J. Galiardi - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat

Raffi Torres - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels

Andrew Desjardins - Scott Gomez - Adam Burish

Scott Hannan - Dan Boyle

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Matt Irwin - Brad Stuart

Thomas Greiss*

Antti Niemi

*If we all close our eyes and wish really hard, Niemi might get some rest, right?

Projected Coyotes Lineup

Mikkel Boedker - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata

Lauri Korpikoski - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan

David Moss - Boyd Gordon - Rob Klinkhammer

Chris Conner - Kyle Chipchura - Alexandre Bolduc

Zbynek Michalek - Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Keith Yandle - David Schlemko

Rostislav Klesla - Derek Morris

Mike Smith

Jason LaBarbera

Prediction: Sharks win 4-2. Goals by Marleau, Burns, Torres and Irwin. Meanwhile, Todd McLellan continues to bench James Sheppard - forcing me not to put him in my goal prediction. Also, Desert Dogs, Desert Dogs, Desert Dogs, Desert Dogs, Desert Dogs, Desert Dogs, Desert Dogs, Desert Dogs, Desert Dogs, Desert Dogs, Desert Dogs, Desert Dogs.