Sharks look to hand Predators fifth straight loss

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- With less than a month remaining in the regular season, the San Jose Sharks will be using rookie backup goaltender Aaron Dell more than usual.

Not yet, though.

The Sharks say All-Star Martin Jones will start Saturday's matinee against the Nashville Predators at SAP Center.

Since becoming a starter last season after being a backup the previous two campaigns with the Los Angeles Kings, Jones has been a regular-season workhorse with a league-high 119 starts.

In 54 games this season, Jones is 31-16-6 with a 2.27 goals-against average and two shutouts. At SAP Center, he's 16-7-4 with a 2.12 GAA and one shutout.

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told the San Jose Mercury News that he's not worried about Jones's workload.

"Jonesy's as low maintenance as they come. Whatever you throw at him, he's ready for," DeBoer said.

Jones earned his first win in five career games against Nashville on Oct. 29 by turning aside 27 shots in a 4-1 victory in northern California.

The Sharks (40-19-7) have the luxury of being able to turn to Dell a little more often than usual as they're atop the Pacific Division and pulling away from the Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.

San Jose opened a season-high six-game homestand with a 4-2 victory over the league-leading Washington Capitals on Thursday. Jones made 25 saves and Brent Burns drew a season-high three assists, with two coming on goals by Logan Couture.

"We know we can play against any top team in this league and it feels good," Thornton told the Mercury News after being honored for recently recording his 1,000th NHL assist. Thornton has scored at least two points in three straight games versus the Predators, totaling two goals and four assists.

Despite having the finest season of the 13 he's spent in the NHL, Burns remains stuck on the cusp of a personal milestone. He hasn't scored a goal in seven straight games, and needs one more to set a new career best. Burns scored 27 goals in 2015-16.

While he is pretty much a lock to win his first Norris Trophy, Burns has only two goals in 32 career games versus the Predators, the last coming in 2009 with Minnesota.

Nashville (32-24-11) is in the middle of the pack in the Central Division, but still looking for its first win March while wrapping up its second road trip through California. The Predators fell to 0-2-2 this month after squandering a pair of one-goal leads in a 3-2 overtime loss to Los Angeles on Thursday.

"We're giving points away right now," defenseman Roman Josi told the Predators' official website. "The last couple of games, just bad decisions on our part, just giving points away."

The Predators are in the playoff mix right now, but captain Mike Fisher said things could change quickly.

"We can play better, and we have to find a way to win," said Fisher, who hasn't scored a goal in 19 career games against the Sharks after joining the Predators in 2011.

One thing Nashville must improve is special-teams play after allowing six power-play goals in its last eight short-handed situations.

Nashville may get a boost from P.A. Parenteau, who may debut with his eighth NHL team after being acquired March 1 from the New Jersey Devils for a draft pick.

A finger injury has kept him off the ice since Feb. 25. He has 13 goals and 14 assists in 59 games and may be champing at the bit.

"It's tough. Usually you want to show what you can do right away, but I haven't been able to do that," he told the team's official website.

Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has a sparkling 1.86 GAA in his career versus San Jose despite a middling 10-7-4 record. He's surrendered two goals or less in nine of his last 10 meetings with the Sharks.

The Sharks are 3-0-1 while outscoring their opposition 13-7 in day games this season. Nashville is 3-2-1 despite being outscored 23-21.

The teams will play for the last time in the regular season on March 25 in Tennessee.
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