Preview: Golden Knights at Sharks
The San Jose Sharks rode the second-best home record in the Western Conference to a second-place finish in the Pacific Division, eight points better than the Vegas Golden Knights. The Sharks need another strong performance at SAP Center in Game 5 on Thursday if they wish to avoid being eliminated by the Golden Knights for the second consecutive year.
San Jose opened the series with promise, receiving offensive production from several defensemen in a 5-2 win in Game 1 before being outscored 16-6 in three consecutive losses. Beleaguered Martin Jones allowed two goals on seven shots in Tuesday's 5-0 setback before being pulled for the second time in three contests in favor of Aaron Dell, although coach Peter DeBoer said Jones will start in Game 5. Conversely, Marc-Andre Fleury has turned aside 87 of 93 shots in his last three games and all 28 he faced on Tuesday to tie Chris Osgood and Clint Benedict with his 15th postseason shutout. "I think we've just got to go in, focus on our game, focus on the first period, nothing too far ahead, just focus on playing the right way," said the 34-year-old Fleury, who improved his career goals-against average in the postseason to 2.58.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet, TVAS, AT&T SportsNet-Rocky Mountains (Vegas), NBCS California (San Jose)
ABOUT THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS: Max Pacioretty recorded a postseason career-high four points after collecting two goals and two assists on Tuesday, boosting the overall point total of Vegas' vaunted second line (Mark Stone, Paul Stastny) to 28 in the series. "You always want to win that next game," the 30-year-old Pacioretty said. "You have to be prepared for whatever's brought at you. They're going to get a ton of energy from their crowd. They're going to play their best game of the series, and we have to be ready for that." Pacioretty's 10 points have him tied for the most in the playoffs with Stone, who was named a Selke Trophy finalist on Wednesday.
ABOUT THE SHARKS: San Jose captain Joe Pavelski told reporters that his team is focused on just the first step of the journey on Thursday as opposed to the daunting uphill task that is required to win the series. "For us, it's take care of home ice right now in that first game," the 34-year-old Pavelski said. "Win a game. We know we can win one game (in Las Vegas). We believe that as a group." The Sharks will welcome the return of veteran Joe Thornton, who served his one-game suspension for his hit to the head of Tomas Nosek in Game 4.
1. Vegas D Shea Theodore has registered consecutive multi-point performances.
2. Per DeBoer, Sharks D Marc-Edouard Vlasic is "a possibility" to play on Thursday following a two-game absence after he was on the receiving end of a shot from Theodore.
3. Golden Knights D Nate Schmidt has four assists in his last three contests.
PREDICTION: Golden Knights 4, Sharks 1