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Sharks vs. Predators: A chance to regain Pacific Division lead

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A win over Nashville tonight would put the Sharks back in first place, although the Ducks would still have two games in hand.

Frederick Breedon

It's probably sensible to resign yourself to the likelihood that the Sharks will finish the season at second place in the Pacific Division and therefore face the Los Angeles Kings in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the Anaheim Ducks just keep taunting San Jose with the promise of a division title. After falling behind by multiple goals on home ice to the Jets and Oilers earlier in the week before storming back to victory, the Ducks finally dug themselves a hole they couldn't climb out of last night and were routed 5-2 on home ice by the Nashville Predators.

The Sharks will face those same Predators tonight on the second half of their back-to-back. A win would reclaim the top spot in the Pacific and set up what could be a massively significant showdown between the Ducks and Sharks this Wednesday in Orange County, particularly if Anaheim doesn't sweep its two games in hand (road contests in Edmonton and Vancouver) on San Jose prior to that game.

Nashville isn't headed to the playoffs this year, for a second straight season, due in large part to a hip injury to Pekka Rinne that has limited the Predators' star goaltender to just 21 appearances. He won't be in net tonight after turning aside 27 of 29 Ducks shots last night in Anaheim, as former Worcester Shark Carter Hutton gets the call. Hutton was in net for the Predators' 3-2 win over the Sharks in December while Marek Mazanec presided over Nashville's 3-2 defeat of San Jose in January. Tonight will mark the Predators' first and only trip to the Bay Area.

Nashville Predators

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San Jose Sharks
34-32-11, 79 points
49-20-9, 107 points
6th in Central
2nd in Pacific

7:30PM PST | SAP Center | San Jose, California
TV: CSNCA-HD, TSN | Radio: SJSharks.com, 98.5 KFOX
Know Your Enemy: On The Forecheck, III Communication

Projected Sharks Lineup

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
Brad Stuart - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Antti Niemi
Alex Stalock

Projected Predators Lineup

Matt Cullen - Mike Fisher - Patric Hornqvist
Gabriel Bourque - Calle Jarnkrok - Craig Smith
Nick Spaling - Colin Wilson - Viktor Stalberg
Richard Clune - Colton Sissons - Eric Nystrom

Roman Josi - Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm - Ryan Ellis
Viktor Bartley - Michael Del Zotto

Carter Hutton
Pekka Rinne