NHL

Jets-Sharks Preview

Although they've fallen out of the Pacific Division title race, the San Jose Sharks still have plenty to play for during their final two regular-season games.

Then again, fighting for home-ice advantage might not serve San Jose's best interests.

After closing out a record-setting season on the road, the Sharks still have an outside chance to finish second in the Pacific as they host the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.

Despite winning four of its last five games, San Jose (45-29-6) can no longer claim its first division title since a four-year run from 2007-11 after Anaheim and Los Angeles picked up points Tuesday. While the Sharks can max out with 100, the winner of Thursday's showdown between the Ducks and the Kings will move up to 101.

That result will clear up the possibilities for the Sharks, who must win to have any chance of finishing second in the division and earn home-ice advantage in a first-round playoff matchup with either Anaheim or Los Angeles.

That might not sound as exciting for a team that has dropped four of its past five in San Jose and whose 17 home victories are easily the fewest of any Western Conference team. The Sharks set a franchise single-season record for road wins with an NHL-best 28-10-3 mark.

''I think it's a great accomplishment what they did and through the season setting the road record,'' coach Peter DeBoer said. ''To be able to do that, I think, is a testament to how these guys prepare themselves and the grittiness of the group.''

They achieved the feat Tuesday with a 3-0 victory at Minnesota as Patrick Marleau led the way with two goals. Logan Couture contributed a goal and an assist, giving him five goals over his last four games.

Eleven of Couture's 15 goals have come on the road. Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton are tied for second in the league with 44 points on the road, and Marleau has 27. At home, however, Pavelski has totaled 32, Thornton has 35 and Marleau only 19.

They'll try to reverse that trend against a Winnipeg team that ranks in the bottom third of the league with 2.86 goals allowed per game but has only given up one in two straight.

Following a 5-1 home win over Minnesota on Sunday, the Jets (33-39-8) pulled off a 2-1 victory at Anaheim on Tuesday on Blake Wheeler's overtime goal. They haven't won three in a row all season.

Wheeler has six goals and six assists over a nine-game point streak. The right wing has three goals and six assists in his last six against the Sharks.

Ondrej Pavelec was given the night off Tuesday but is expected to be back in net. He's 3-0-2 with a 1.96 goals-against average in his last five starts. Pavelec owns a .934 save percentage over six career games versus the Sharks.

The Jets will have a big impact on what happens in the Pacific. After topping the Ducks and facing the Sharks, they'll take on the Kings on Saturday to close out this season-ending trip.

"We'll see how we measure up," Wheeler told the team's official website.

The road team has taken each of the first two matchups in this series. Winnipeg won 4-1 at San Jose on Jan. 2 before the Sharks got even with a 4-1 victory Jan. 12.

Both games were before James Reimer's arrival in San Jose. He's 6-1-0 with a 1.42 GAA in his last seven starts but has lost five straight to the Jets with a 4.28 GAA.

Pavelski has four goals and six assists in his past eight against Winnipeg.

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