|Sharks start four-game trip in Dallas|
DALLAS -- At one time, the San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars were Pacific Division rivals. However, that's about the only similarity they share heading into their game Monday night at American Airlines Center.
San Jose (42-22-7) has dropped two straight games, including a 2-1 loss to Anaheim at home on Saturday, but the Sharks remain in the top spot in the Pacific and the 2016 Stanley Cup finalists look like a serious Western Conference contender again this season. They open a four-game road trip in Dallas.
The Stars (28-33-10) sit in sixth place in the Central Division and are all but out of the playoff race.
The Sharks, who are 6-4-0 over their past 10 games, may be without forward Jannik Hansen, who was acquired from Vancouver prior to the NHL trade deadline. Hansen took a stick to the head against the Ducks.
San Jose coach Peter DeBoer didn't have an update on Hansen's status after Saturday's loss, and the Sharks were off Sunday and traveled to Dallas.
However, on Sunday afternoon, San Jose called up two forwards, Timo Meier and Danny O'Regan, from its American Hockey League affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda.
Meier, the ninth pick in the 2015 draft, has five points in 26 AHL games this season while O'Regan, who made his NHL debut in November, currently leads the Barracuda with 52 points in 54 games.
This road trip is a bit of an anomaly for the Sharks. After starting the trip Monday in Dallas, San Jose will then play the first of two back-to-backs with a Tuesday game in Minnesota.
The Sharks will then face the Stars again in Dallas on Friday, the front end of a back-to-back that will see San Jose play again in Nashville on Saturday to complete the trip.
"It's never easy to go on the road," San Jose center Joe Pavelski said after Saturday's loss. "We've had a nice little homestand here. We've been very good on the road."
Good might be an understatement since the Sharks are 19-12-3 away from the Bay Arena. San Jose is also 9-7-0 against the Central Division, with all three foes during this trip from the Central.
"Yeah, but we've never shied away from tough rinks or tough trips. I think we'll be ready," DeBoer said of the road trip.
Dallas lost 3-1 at Calgary on Friday, finishing its four-game road trip at 1-3-0 and putting its minuscule playoff hopes on life support.
With 11 games to play, the Stars currently sit 15 points behind Nashville for the second West wild-card spot.
Injuries have been a big story for Dallas all season as only two players, Tyler Seguin, Dallas' lone All-Star, and rookie Devin Shore, have skated in every game thus far.
And the Stars added another injury to their expansive list when veteran center Jason Spezza left practice Sunday with what coach Lindy Ruff called back spasms.
Ruff termed the chances of Spezza playing Monday as "doubtful."
Dallas could get a boost from the potential return of captain Jamie Benn against the Sharks. Benn missed Friday's loss in Calgary after taking a stick to the eye in Thursday's win in Vancouver.
Benn practiced Sunday without a face shield and could be ready.
"Based on practice today (Sunday), I'd probably put him higher than that (50-50 odds) on playing, but we'll see what tomorrow brings," Ruff said after practice.
Dallas is 18-12-6 at home and 10-6-2 against the Pacific, and at least technically, the Stars are still not officially eliminated from postseason contention, but that day could come at some point this week.
And even with this season being a huge disappointment, especially after last season Dallas led the NHL in goals and finished the regular season with the most points in the West, Ruff hasn't stopped teaching, especially to his younger players.
"We want to continue to use this time to get better. This isn't just to go through the motion, it's an opportunity to get better," Ruff said.