Joe Pavelski and the San Jose Sharks are headed to the playoffs, but qualifying as Pacific Division champions will require help.
The Nashville Predators have no plans to comply again.
Pavelski looks to continue his recent scoring barrage in order to help the Sharks regain the division lead and dent the Predators’ faint playoff hopes Saturday night.
San Jose (49-20-9) is assured of finishing no worse than second in the division, which would mean facing Los Angeles in the opening round of the postseason.
The Sharks, though, still have a chance at winning the Pacific, entering this game one point behind Anaheim with four games left. The Ducks have two games in hand, however, and will even out things with visits to Edmonton on Sunday and Vancouver on Monday.
The teams also have a crucial game in Anaheim on Wednesday that could go a long way in settling the division.
First, San Jose will try to beat the Predators (34-31-11) after going 1-2-2 over the past five meetings, losing 3-2 at Nashville on Jan. 7.
Pavelski had a goal in that meeting, and his 39 on the season are a career high. He ranks third in the NHL, two behind the Ducks’ Corey Perry for second.
The star center, who also has a personal-best 76 points, has five goals and four assists over the past five games. He found the net again Thursday, scoring his team-leading 15th power-play goal to help the Sharks rally for a 2-1 win over the Kings.
"I liked fact that we stood our ground and battled hard," coach Todd McLellan said. "The physical battles, they’re known to win a lot of those. We were in them for the most part."
Joe Thornton unexpectedly provided some of that physicality Thursday, laying out a season-high six hits while being held without a point. The center totaled six hits over his previous 13 games.
"We’re starting to ramp up our game a little bit," Thornton said.
Thornton may return to his usual role as playmaker Saturday since he has 31 points in 24 career home meetings with the Predators, including the playoffs. He assisted on both goals in a 2-1 win against them March 2, 2013.
Pavelski had one of those tallies, giving him six while assisting on two others in nine home games versus Nashville.
While the Sharks have already clinched a playoff berth, Nashville’s chances are dim – it is seven points back of Phoenix for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with five games left – one more than the Coyotes.
The Predators are 5-1-1 in their last seven, but it may be too little, too late. They continued their recent surge by giving San Jose some help Friday, scoring the first three goals en route to a 5-2 win at Anaheim.
"We’re not out of the playoffs yet," said left wing Colin Wilson, who had two goals against the Ducks. "We’re looking forward to going into the ‘Shark Tank’ and it will be fun against San Jose."
Patric Hornqvist and Mike Fisher are providing some offensive punch. Hornqvist has five goals and six assists over the past six games, while Fisher has nine points in the last seven.
Fisher, though, has been held without a point in five straight meetings with the Sharks, and Hornqvist has failed to register one in the last three.
Shea Weber, though, has three assists in two matchups this season.