Sharks, Flames tuning up for the postseason

The San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames will play past the regular season, but questions surrounding their postseason openers still remain.

Some of those issues may be addressed when the Sharks and Flames wrap up their regular-season schedules Saturday night in northern California.

The Sharks spent most of the season atop the Pacific Division before a season-high six-game losing streak in March knocked them out of the top spot. San Jose (45-29-7) is fifth in the Western Conference and will likely open the postseason on the road against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Sharks could pass the Oilers and open at home if they beat the Flames and the Oilers lose both ends of a home-and-home series in regulation to the Vancouver Canucks over the weekend.

San Jose didn't help its own cause, falling 4-2 to Edmonton on Thursday.

"We would have loved to win this game and have a chance to secure home ice on Saturday," Sharks forward Jannik Hansen said. "Now it's out of our hands. With that being said, home ice is home ice. You've still got to win the games."

Calgary (45-32-4) will also start the postseason on the road, but its opponent is yet to be determined. A win over the Sharks would have the Flames opening against the Anaheim Ducks. If Calgary is bypassed by the Nashville Predators, it would start against the conference-best Chicago Blackhawks.

San Jose is 1-3-0 against Calgary this season, splitting both matchups at SAP Center. The Sharks are 2-3-2 in their last seven home meetings with the Flames.

Barring a historic game from captain Joe Pavelski, defenseman Brent Burns will finish the regular season as the Sharks' top scorer. Burns, who has 75 points and appears to be a lock for his first Norris Trophy, is tied with Pavelski for the team lead with 29 goals.

No defenseman has scored 30 goals in a season since Mike Green tallied 31 for the Washington Capitals in 2008-09.

Burns needs one point to set the Sharks' single-season record for points by a defenseman and two points for 500 for his career. He has two goals and an assist while Pavelski has five assists in four games versus the Flames this season.

It's still not known if the Sharks will have two of their better centers back in the lineup. Joe Thornton has missed the last two games with a knee injury and Logan Couture has sat out six in a row after taking a deflected puck to the mouth. Couture and Thornton, who have been skating in practice, are third and fourth, respectively, on the team in scoring.

"Obviously, for those two, they're making strides if they're out there. At the end of the day, we'll take any progress," defenseman Brenden Dillon said in the San Jose Mercury News. "Obviously, Game 1 of the playoffs will be the optimal goal. Anything before that would be gravy."

The Flames finish the regular season looking for their eighth win in 11 contests away from home after topping the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 on Thursday behind 27 saves from Jon Gilles in his NHL debut.

"That was an unbelievable effort by our team," Gilles said. "When you play behind an effort like that, it's easy to see why we've had success this year."

Brian Elliott is expected to be back in net for a final tune-up before the postseason. In his only appearance against the Sharks this season, Elliott turned away 36 shots in the Flames' 5-2 victory on March 31.

With an assist Thursday, Kris Versteeg extended his points streak to four games, in which he has two goals and four assists.

Matthew Tkachuk is the Flames' scoring leader against the Sharks with three goals and three assists in four games. He also has a chance to crack to the top five in rookie scoring. With 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists) Tkachuk and Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets are one point behind Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes.

A pair of Flames could reach milestones in this contest. Mark Giordano and Dennis Wideman each need one goal for 100 in their careers. Giordano has four assists in a three-game streak and Wideman scored on a rare breakaway in the win over the Kings.
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