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Sharks expect desperate Predators to bring 'A' game

San Jose can advance to Western Conference Final with Game 6 win

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- One year after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2003, the San Jose Sharks are one win away from the Western Conference Final.

But the Sharks know it won't come easily.

The Sharks took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 second-round series against the Nashville Predators with a 5-1 victory in Game 5 at SAP Center on Saturday. Game 6 is at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on Monday (9 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN, TVA Sports 2), and neither team has won a road game in the series.

"We realize that they're going to bring it tomorrow night," Sharks center Logan Couture said Sunday before traveling to Nashville. "Obviously, one loss for them and their season's over. That's when teams bring their best, so we're going to have to be better.

"It's a tough building to play in over there, but I thought our last game, that overtime, we were pretty good. We had a lot of chances to win that game. Build off of the way we played last night as well. If we do that, I think we'll be OK."

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm5: Pavelski one-times Thornton's nice feed

The Predators defeated the Sharks 4-3 in the third overtime in Game 4 in Nashville. San Jose outshot Nashville 25-17 in the three extra periods but was unable to score. In Game 5, the Sharks scored four times on 27 shots against Pekka Rinne, getting two goals from Joe Pavelski and one each from Couture and Patrick Marleau. Melker Karlsson scored a late goal against backup Carter Hutton. Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi and Justin Braun each had two assists.

"The team's been playing well," San Jose center Joe Thornton said. "I've been playing well personally. It's nice to see that we're kind of heating up right now. The first couple games, I thought we were just getting our legs, but now it feels like we're comfortable playing the game. We just got to continue that.

"We know it's a tough challenge to win in Nashville. Tomorrow's a huge game. They're going to play desperate. We got to play just as desperate. I expect their 'A' game and our 'A' game too. Can't wait."

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer juggled his bottom three lines for Game 5 and said he'll stick with those changes for Game 6 if everybody is healthy. Marleau moved from third-line center to second-line left wing, joining Couture and Donskoi. That line combined for two goals and three assists.

Video: NSH@SJS, Gm5: Pavelski nets PPG for second of night

Chris Tierney jumped from the fourth line to the third, and Nick Spaling moved from left wing to center on the fourth line. Dainius Zubrus made his 2016 playoff debut on the fourth line and is expected to be in the lineup again Monday.

"I thought he was great, for sitting out for a month almost," DeBoer said of Zubrus. "That's a credit to how hard he works that he was able to come in and give us that type of energy and that type of big-body physical play."

The Sharks played arguably their best defensive game of the series and held the Predators' second line of center Mike Fisher, Colin Wilson and James Neal, which was reunited in Game 3, to one goal. That line scored two goals in a 4-1 Nashville victory in Game 3 and all four Predators goals in their Game 4 win.

"I thought [defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic] and [Justin Braun] did a good job of shutting them down, but we're also more aware of them," DeBoer said. "We spent a lot of time on [Ryan] Johansen and [Filip] Forsberg going into the series and didn't spend a ton of time on that group.

"Those guys have been really carrying the mail for them so it was a little bit of shift of focus to pay attention to these guys because they're hurting us here. I think the guys did that."

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