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Anaheim loss keeps Pacific title within grasp of Sharks with four games left

Joe Thornton (left) is second in the NHL with 63 assists this season.
Joe Thornton (left) is second in the NHL with 63 assists this season.
(Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The first-place Anaheim Ducks took it on the chin at home last night against the Nashville Predators, losing 5-2 on home ice.

Tonight, the San Jose Sharks can take advantage of that result by beating those same Predators at the SAP Center.

Two things would seem to favor the Sharks this evening: first, San Jose is 28-6-5 at home this season, the second-best home-ice record in the National Hockey League this year, and second, Nashville will be playing the second of back-to-back games on the West Coast, obviously, while the Sharks have had a normal rest since their big win over Los Angeles on Thursday night.

Of course, San Jose has played one more game than Anaheim, so even though the Sharks trail the Ducks by one point, the first-place team from down south still has an edge -- but they've given the Northern California guys some hope.

Especially since the two teams still have one more head-to-head game to play (on Wednesday, in Anaheim).

And the Sharks need to close strong if they want to nab a Pacific Division title, something they used to almost take for granted in San Jose after winning four straight from 2008-2011 and six overall in the nine years from 2002-11.

They can start by winning tonight against a Nashville squad that has a very distant outside still at the playoffs.

Overall, this has been the Sharks (49-20-9) best regular-season since the 2009-10 season when they finished as the top squad in the Western Conference for the second straight season. In terms of points percentage, San Jose (.686) has a shot to finish with the second-best regular season record in franchise history, trailing only the President's Cup-winning squad of 2008-09 that went 53-18-11.

Game time is 7:30 p.m. tonight.