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Sharks know they can't let chance slip vs. Predators

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks got some help Friday night in their quest for a Pacific Division title when the Nashville Predators defeated the first-place Anaheim Ducks 5-2.

With 107 points, the Sharks trail Anaheim by one point and can move into first place with a victory Saturday night against Nashville at SAP Center.

The question is whether the chance to jump Anaheim will provide a motivational boost to the Sharks, who are coming off an emotional win Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings and have struggled this year against teams that don't appear to be headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"That's the million dollar question," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after the morning skate. "We've been in this situation a couple times against non-playoff teams and we haven't taken advantage of it. We'll throw our best effort out there and we'll see where it goes. I'd like to think that our team can come out and do everything we can to get the win. If we can get a leg up on Anaheim it forces them to win. Right now they don't have to. That will be a goal of ours tonight."

Sharks forward Patrick Marleau said he definitely took notice when the Predators beat the Ducks.

"It's only good if we take advantage of it and get the points that we're playing for tonight," Marleau said. "But it's one of those things that you need a little help."

The Ducks have one game in hand and will have two in hand after the Sharks play Nashville. But when the Sharks and Ducks meet Wednesday at Honda Center, they'll each have three games remaining.

San Jose certainly can't afford to take Nashville lightly. The Predators are 2-0-0 against San Jose this season and 6-2-1 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

"When you look at their record, and they're probably not going to make the playoffs, you wonder what type of kill and work ethic they have, but when you watch them play, it's very strong," McLellan said. "They get good goaltending, get a tremendous amount of offense from their blue line. They're active. They're very good defenders. They get up and go. That gives us a big of a headache.

"Overall, their team speed and their tenacity has been the difference in games. We haven't been quick against them, and their tenacity has been higher than ours. They've been able to come away with close wins."

Nashville backup goaltender Carter Hutton will get the start, with Pekka Rinne in reserve. Hutton made 36 saves in the Predators' 3-2 victory against San Jose on Dec. 14.

Antti Niemi was the first Sharks goaltender off the ice Saturday morning and is expected to make his third straight start.

The only apparent change in the Sharks' lines is forward Marty Havlat moving back from the fourth line to the third and changing spots with Tyler Kennedy after a one-game switch.

Nashville didn't skate, but Predators coach Barry Trotz said Friday he expected defenseman Seth Jones (concussion) and forward Paul Gaustad (upper body) to return to the lineup against San Jose. Jones has missed the past five games and Gaustad the past seven.

Here are the projected lineups for Nashville and San Jose:


Matt Cullen - Mike Fisher - Patric Hornqvist

Gabriel Bourque - Calle Jarnkrok - Craig Smith

Nick Spaling - Colin Wilson - Viktor Stalberg

Rich Clune - Paul Gaustad - Eric Nystrom

Roman Josi - Shea Weber

Michael Del Zotto - Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm - Seth Jones

Carter Hutton

Pekka Rinne

Scratched: Victor Bartley, Colton Sissons

Injured: Patrick Eaves (lower body)


Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels

Matt Nieto - James Sheppard - Marty Havlat

Tyler Kennedy - Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers

Dan Boyle - Matt Irwin

Brad Stuart - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: Scott Hannan

Injured: Tomas Hertl (knee), Adam Burish (hand), Raffi Torres (knee)

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