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Sharks go for Pacific lead as they host Predators

by John Kreiser

PREDATORS (34-32-11) at SHARKS (49-20-9)


Last 10: Nashville 5-4-1; San Jose 5-3-2

Season series: The Nashville Predators are going for a sweep of their three games against the San Jose Sharks. They earned 3-2 victories at Bridgestone Arena on Dec. 14 and Jan. 7.

Big story: The Predators come to San Jose after doing the Sharks a big favor on Friday night by beating the Anaheim Ducks 5-2. The victory kept Nashville's slim hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs alive; it also kept the Sharks within a point of the first-place Ducks in the race for the Pacific Division title, though Anaheim also has a game in hand.

Team Scope:

Predators: Nashville's hopes of making the playoffs are more mathematical than actual. But the Predators looked every bit like a playoff team against the Ducks, stunning the Honda Center crowd by scoring four goals in the first 17:05 and shutting down Anaheim's attack after that.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne earned his 161st career victory, tying Tomas Vokoun for the most in franchise history.

"I knew it was close but I didn't realize that it's this one," Rinne said of the team record. "He's obviously a really good goalie. He was one of their franchise players when the team came into Nashville. He had a successful career in Nashville. It's obviously a nice accomplishment, but hopefully there's plenty more to come.

Sharks: Expect coach Todd McLellan to lecture his team about the dangers of playing a trap game. The Sharks are coming off an emotional 2-1 home victory against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, and after facing the Predators, they're off until they visit the Ducks on Wednesday.

McLellan opted to rest his players Friday rather than have them skate. But there were plenty of good feelings after the victory against the Kings, who were 3-0-1 against San Jose before Thursday -- especially for goaltender Antti Niemi, who's had his ups and downs since the Sochi Olympics but looked sharp against L.A.

"I felt pretty good since the Olympic break, but two games back to back, giving up a couple too many goals," Niemi told the San Jose Mercury News on Friday. "So it was big comeback for me, too.

Who's hot: Colin Wilson scored twice in Anaheim after managing one goal in the first three months of 2014. Mike Fisher also scored twice, his first multiple-goal game since Dec. 28. … Joe Pavelski's goal against L.A. was his career-high 39th. He has five goals and four assists during a five-game point streak.

Injury report: Predators defenseman Seth Jones (concussion) has been cleared to return. Center Paul Gaustad (upper body) and forward Patrick Eaves (lower body) are day-to-day. … Sharks forward Raffi Torres (knee) will miss his 14th consecutive game but could be back next week. Forward Tomas Hertl (knee), out since Dec. 19, is skating but McLellan said there's no timetable for his return, and Adam Burish (hand) might be back for the playoffs.

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