Sharks look to bounce back in Nashville

Nine days ago, the San Jose Sharks were coasting toward a second straight Pacific Division title and perhaps thinking about a return to the Stanley Cup Final.

Not anymore.

Fresh off one of its worst losses, the Sharks hope to snap their longest skid of the season when they take on the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.

With a 6-1 setback to the Dallas Stars on Friday, San Jose (42-25-7) has been outscored 16-5 while dropping five in a row, all in regulation.

"Yeah, sometimes they're going in, sometimes they're not," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "Some teams are doing a good job of taking some of our plays away, but it's on us as players. You got to win some battles; you got to create some energy, some speed throughout the team. It hasn't been one guy. It's been all of us."

Soon after their latest defeat, the Sharks fell into a tie for the Pacific lead after the Anaheim Ducks defeated the Winnipeg Jets.

It's not just the top of the Pacific that's tight. San Jose and Anaheim have a two-point lead over the third-place Edmonton Oilers, and are five points ahead of the Calgary Flames. All four teams have eight games remaining, and San Jose has two more meetings each against Edmonton and Calgary.

The Sharks, who last lost six straight in regulation from Jan. 3 to Jan. 13, 2011, must first focus on getting past Nashville (37-25-11), which has an eight-point lead over the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with nine games to go.

The Sharks and Predators have split two games this season, but both were in California. San Jose is 1-5-1 while being outscored 26-11 in its last seven visits to Tennessee.

Only three players -- Joe Thornton, Paul Martin and Pavelski -- have goals against the Predators in 2016-17.

Rookie Aaron Dell yielded all six goals Friday, meaning that Martin Jones will almost surely be back in net. In six games this month, Jones has four losses despite a 2.03 goals-against average.

As a member of the Sharks, Jones' only game in Nashville was disastrous. He surrendered five goals in a 6-2 loss on Feb. 6, 2016.

The Predators are going for their sixth win in seven games after posting a 3-1 win over Calgary on Thursday.

"We've got to keep it moving in the right direction," Predators coach Peter Laviolette told the team's official website. "That being said, it doesn't guarantee anything for Saturday. We're going to have to come out and play a really good team, work hard to be successful."

The Predators own one of the best home records in the NHL at 22-8-7, thanks in large part to Viktor Arvidsson, who's emerged as a star in his second full NHL season.

A fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft, Arvidsson has 27 goals in 71 games, trailing only linemate Filip Forsberg (29 goals) for the team lead. Arvidsson and Forsberg have each scored 17 goals in front of the home fans.

"That's probably what we're talking about (Arvidsson) right now and how impressed we are by the way he's been consistent for us all year," linemate Ryan Johansen told the Tennessean.

Arvidsson has four goals and two assists in his last six games, and 23 points -- including 15 goals -- in his last 23 games.

Pekka Rinne will likely start in goal for the Preds, and be in search of his 30th win. Rinne has won his last four home starts against San Jose, allowing just five goals.

If Juuse Saros gets the call, he'll go for his second career win over the Sharks. Saros made 25 saves in Nashville's 3-1 victory on March 11.
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