The San Jose Sharks have clinched the Pacific Division title and are in a race for the top spot in the Western Conference.
That's not enough, however, to satisfy everybody in the organization.
After a frustrating loss and a closed-door meeting, the Sharks look for a better effort against the visiting Nashville Predators on Thursday night.
San Jose (45-14-10) lost 4-3 at lowly Phoenix on Tuesday. While a Dallas loss to Vancouver on the same night clinched a second straight division title, the Sharks are 4-6-1 since winning four in a row.
The top team in the West for most of the season, the Sharks are three points behind conference-leading Detroit with two games in hand.
San Jose's recent effort and overall mediocre play prompted a 90-minute meeting that included players, coaches and general manager Doug Wilson.
"It wasn't a direct result (of Phoenix)," first-year coach Todd McLellan told the Sharks' official Web site. "It's a meeting that needed to happen and teams have them at this time of the year."
After making 34 saves in a 1-0 win at Anaheim on Sunday, Evgeni Nabokov was pulled after one period for allowing three goals on nine shots against the Coyotes, who are trying to avoid finishing last in the West.
"He wasn't ready to play, either," McLellan said of Nabokov, who is 34-8-7 with a 2.44 goals-against average.
Nabokov, though, has won four in a row over the Predators to improve to 11-7-1 with two ties and a 2.08 GAA against them.
Joe Thornton had two goals and an assist and Rob Blake added three assists for San Jose, which tied the game in the third period before the Coyotes scored the winner with 26.9 seconds remaining.
"We haven't played like we'd like to," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "We're in this together, so it's about everyone pulling together to get the job done."
San Jose tries for its second straight victory over Nashville after a 4-1 road win on Nov. 17. Patrick Marleau, who scored his team-leading 36th goal Tuesday, has one and three assists against the Predators this season.
Nashville handed San Jose a rare home loss, 4-3 in overtime on Nov. 11. The Sharks are an NHL-best 27-3-4 at HP Pavilion.
The Predators look to bounce back after losing 4-3 in overtime at Anaheim on Wednesday to fall to 2-0-1 on their four-game western road trip. Nashville allowed the Ducks to score on three of their five power-play chances.
"Their power play won the game for them," Predators rookie goaltender Pekka Rinne said. "We played an undisciplined game and took some unnecessary penalties."
Joel Ward scored two goals, Ryan Suter added three assists and J.P. Dumont had a goal with an assist for Nashville, which moved into seventh place in the West.
Ward has three goals and an assist in his last two games, while Dumont has three of each in his last four. Suter had a goal and an assist in the Predators' last visit to San Jose.
Rinne made 27 saves and fell to 24-11-2 with a 2.28 GAA. Dan Ellis, though, could start in this back-to-back scenario.
Ellis, who has lost four in a row, is 11-19-4 with a 2.93 GAA this season and 1-2-0 with a 2.99 GAA against the Sharks.
It's uncertain if Nashville captain Jason Arnott will miss a fifth straight game due to an upper-body injury. Arnott leads the team with 27 goals.
|G. De Vries||61||1||4||5||-12||61||0||0|