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Sharks, Predators meet in matchup of past West champs

The San Jose Sharks believe they have turned a corner and are ready to play the solid hockey that has defined them as one of the league's better teams for more than a decade.

The Nashville Predators want to make sure that one bad outing doesn't continue and push them farther down the Central Division standings.

In a matchup involving the two most recent Western Conference champions, San Jose continues a five-game homestand on Wednesday night against Nashville.

San Jose dropped two of three against Nashville last season, and is 5-8-1 with a tie all time at home against the Predators when scoring two goals or less. The Sharks are in the bottom third of the league in goals per game at home with 2.67 this season.

San Jose's return from a five-game road trip was a successful one. Rookie Tim Heed had a goal and an assist, Joe Pavelski and Joel Ward added tallies and Martin Jones made 16 saves in a 3-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night.

"I think the road trip we learned a lot about ourselves, how we need to play and what guys can give us," Pavelski said. "Now it was really good to see to come back first game after a long trip like that to play probably our best game of the season."

One player to watch Wednesday is Sharks center Joe Thornton after he picked up an assist against the Maple Leafs to move closer to another career milestone. The 38-year-old needs one more point to become the 20th player in league history with 1,400 for his career.

Thornton has points in six of his last seven games, picking up two goals and five assists in that span. Overall, "Jumbo Joe" has 61 points (12 goals, 49 assists) in 51 career games, and two goals with five assists in a six-game points streak versus the Predators.

Part of the reason for San Jose's resurgence is because of Jones' play in goal. After giving up eight goals while losing his first two games this season, Jones has surrendered nine goals in his last six games en route to a 5-1-0 record.

As a member of the Sharks, Jones is 1-4-0 with a 3.45 goals-against average and .878 save percentage against Nashville. Backup Aaron Dell has never faced the Predators.

Nashville (5-4-2), currently in the middle of the pack in the Central, kicks off a four-game road trip after arguably its worst game of the season, a 6-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday.

"We've had a lot of good games where we haven't gotten points, and a couple of bad ones that we just have to forget about," Nashville forward Filip Forsberg told the team's official website. "We've been playing really well for periods of games and slipping down periods, too.

"I think that's the biggest thing, just try to keep that level high all the time."

Forsberg leads the Preds with eight goals and 13 points this season. Since getting the first of two consecutive hat tricks on Feb. 21, the native of Sweden is third in the NHL with 23 goals in 35 games behind Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes (25 in 35 games) and Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning (32 in 36 games).

Forsberg is also on milestone watch as the sixth-year pro needs one goal for 100 in his career. He has not had a point in four straight games versus San Jose.

After backup Juuse Saros gave up a career-high six goals in the loss to the Islanders, Pekka Rinne -- 5-1-2 with a 1.86 GAA and .940 save percentage -- should get the nod in net.

Rinne is 2-1-1 on the road this season, stopping 132 of 138 shots. Now in his 12th season, Rinne is 11-6-4 with a 1.83 GAA and a .943 save percentage in his career as a starter when facing the Sharks.

Despite logging a 1.62 GAA in his last five starts in northern California, the native of Finland has a 1-4-0 record.

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