ANAHEIM -- With the Pacific Division title at stake, no one is trying to portray Wednesday night's showdown between the Sharks and Anaheim Ducks as just one of 82 regular season contests.

"I don't think you treat it just like any other game," Sharks defenseman Justin Braun said after the morning skate. "We've got three more left before playoffs. You have to have that playoff mentality, going hard every shift."

But at the same time, players and coaches say they aren't worried about getting too emotionally fired up for a game between teams that can get pretty heated when there's less on the line.

"We have an experienced hockey club. A lot of guys have played in a lot of big, big games," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "The repercussions for a win or a loss aren't as dramatic as maybe playing in a Game 7 or a gold medal game or the Stanley Cup Finals. It's a regular season game. We understand what's at stake, but I don't think they'll be over-jacked. Not at all."

The Sharks will have Antti Niemi in goal with the Ducks announcing on their Twitter account that rookie John Gibson will be getting his second NHL start.

San Jose trails Anaheim by three points in the Pacific Division standings with both teams having two games left to play after this one. A Ducks victory tonight relegates San Jose to second place and a first-round matchup with the Los Angeles Kings while the Sharks would keep their title hopes alive with a regulation win.

The Sharks are 3-1 against Anaheim this season, but the 6-3 loss came in San Jose's only previous appearance at the Honda Center, where the Sharks have lost four of the last five times.

Sharks captain Joe Thornton didn't challenge the suggestion this would be as close to a playoff-like atmosphere as possible.

"Even Anaheim coming into our building within the last couple weeks was a playoff-type atmosphere," said Thornton, referring to San Jose's 3-2 win on March 20. "They always seem to be good games against these guys. They're always ready to play against us and we're always ready to play against them. It should be no different tonight."

McLellan suggested strongly Tuesday that Bracken Kearns, called up Tuesday from Worcester, would find a place in the lineup against Anaheim and, based on the morning skate, it appeared that was on the third line with James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels. With Tyler Kennedy, Andrew Desjardins and Mike Brown on the fourth line, it appeared Marty Havlat would be the player Kearns replaces.

  • Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau made it clear that while coaches always say what matters most is playing good hockey going into the postseason, that really isn't the case Wednesday night.

    "All the coaches lie and say it's about how we're playing down the stretch," Boudreau said, "but I would venture to guess they all know what's on the line tonight. You don't play seven months and not want to be the best. Play a game of Monopoly with these players and they'll cheat to win.

    "It's in our blood that you want them playing their best," he said, "but at the same time, if you play your worst and you win, you're going to be happy in the room tonight."

    Injured Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler is close to being game ready and Boudreau said it would be a game-time decision if he plays against the Sharks.

    For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.