SAN JOSE -- The Sharks are all well aware they aren't in the driver's seat when it comes to the Pacific Division title.
Lose to the Anaheim Ducks in their much anticipated showdown Wednesday night at the Honda Center and any remaining hope for that title dies. Win in regulation and that hope continues to flicker as first place could still be San Jose's if Anaheim picks up two points or fewer in its final two games while the Sharks sweep both of theirs.
So maybe that's why the emphasis Tuesday was on getting their own game in order before the playoffs begin rather than a first-place finish. Not that the two aren't connected.
"It's a big game for us to get feeling good again going into the playoffs," veteran defenseman Brad Stuart said. "We want to make sure we have a good showing and who knows, maybe it will end up being the difference in the standings. Let's start tomorrow and go from there."
The new division-oriented playoff format simplifies things for all NHL teams scoping out possible playoff foes.
Lose in regulation Wednesday night and the Sharks know they face the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round. Win and there's still a chance San Jose could play the Minnesota Wild or Dallas Stars. Either way, San Jose will have home-ice advantage.
An overtime or shootout win for San Jose would keep a Pacific title in range, but the Sharks would have to win both remaining games while the Ducks got no more than one point over its final two.
Over the last month, the Sharks have played down any concern over a particular opponent, saying the goal was strictly getting home-ice advantage deep into the postseason. That didn't change Tuesday.
"For me personally, it doesn't matter where you finish or who you play," Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. "You've got to beat good teams to go on and win the Cup. But you've got to be playing well going into the playoffs, feeling good."
The Sharks take responsibility for the fact they don't control their own fate. Though 7-1 since the Olympic break against teams going to the playoffs, they are 5-4-3 against the also-rans in that same stretch.
Anaheim will be playing its third game in four nights while the Sharks have been idle since Saturday night's 3-0 loss to the Nashville Predators.
"That could be a good thing or it could be a detriment," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of the long break between games. "We'd like to turn it into a good thing. We had some good energy in practice. We know we're going down to Anaheim where we didn't play well earlier in the year, and we have to perform at a higher level to be successful. And from there we'll take the games as they come."
The Sharks are 3-1 this season against the Ducks, with one of those wins coming in a shootout. But the lone loss was a 6-3 defeat at the Honda Center, where San Jose's record is 2-5 since 2011-12, including four losses in the past five games.
"We're going to have to go in there and play like a desperate team and play one of our better games if we want to beat that team," Logan Couture said. "We know how good they are. It's going to be a challenge for us, and I think the game is coming at a good time."
McLellan declined to identify his starting goalie but suggested there would be a lineup change after forward Bracken Kearns was called up from Worcester.
"I think we need to stir the drink a little bit," the Sharks coach said. "I think guys are comfortable, and some have earned the right to be comfortable. Others have been too comfortable and haven't earned it completely yet."
With three regular season games remaining for both teams, here is how the race for first stacks up in the Western Conference's Pacific Division:
Team W L OT PTS
Anaheim 51 20 8 110
Sharks 49 21 9 107
Sharks (49-21-9) at Anaheim (51-20-8), 7:30 p.m. NBCSN