SAN JOSE -- Are the Sharks peaking too early?

The team is 8-1-1 since the Olympic break, the NHL's second-best record over that stretch. So it wasn't unreasonable that the question was thrown at Sharks coach Todd McLellan after his team shut out the New York Rangers 1-0 on Sunday to complete a 3-0 trip.

His answer?

"If we are," he began, "you don't want to take your foot off the gas by any means." Then he reconsidered a bit: "The playoffs are still a little ways away. We've got work."

That work resumes Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers, and McLellan's biggest challenge may be keeping his players from looking ahead 48 hours.

That's when the Anaheim Ducks arrive for the first of two showdowns that could determine who wins the Pacific Division title -- and dodges the Los Angeles Kings in the first round. The Sharks and Ducks meet again April 9 in Anaheim.

  • Antti Niemi's 41 saves Sunday set a franchise record for most by a Sharks goalie in a shutout. The previous record? That was held by Evgeni Nabokov -- the goalie Niemi beat Friday night in the 4-3 win over the New York Islanders. Nabokov made 40 saves in a 2-0 victory over the Ottawa Senators -- also on the road -- on Jan. 12, 2006.

  • Logan Couture's goal that beat the Rangers was San Jose's third short-handed tally in the past six games, and the Sharks now have eight for the season, tying them for fourth best in the NHL.

    Couture had an explanation when asked why the team is having that level of success while at a man disadvantage.

    "The way it is with power plays these days, they usually have four or five forwards on them," Couture said. "So if you can get isolated one-on-one with a forward who's trying to play deep, it usually works in your favor. Patty's (Marleau) goal against Pittsburgh was on (Evgeni) Malkin, mine was on (Brad) Richards. That's just the way teams are going with their power plays, so we just try and take advantage of it."

  • Niemi's performance earned him recognition as the NHL's third star of the week Monday. He won three games over that period with a .950 save percentage and a 1.67 goals against average.

    For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.

    Tuesday's game
    Florida (25-35-8) at Sharks (45-17-7), 7:30 p.m. CSNCA