SAN JOSE -- Unlike the last two seasons with their almost down-to-the-wire finishes, the Sharks could clinch their 2014 playoff spot as early as Saturday night when they face the Washington Capitals.

The postseason is a foregone conclusion and, with 99 points, San Jose also is creeping into the conversation as a long-shot candidate for the Presidents Trophy. But don't expect any of the Sharks players or coaches to start speculating on how high they can finish or -- worse yet -- the ideal first-round opponent.

"Lesson number one is you never pick your opponent because all you do is get yourself in trouble," coach Todd McLellan said. "You take whoever is presented to you and do the best you can against them irregardless of how they play or what they may throw at you."

San Jose Sharks’ Brent Burns (88) is congratulated by San Jose Sharks’ Joe Pavelski (8) and San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton (19) on his
San Jose Sharks' Brent Burns (88) is congratulated by San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski (8) and San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton (19) on his go-ahead goal against the Anaheim Ducks in the third period at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. on Thursday, March 20, 2014. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) ( Nhat V. Meyer )

The prevailing wisdom outside the organization is that the Sharks want to finish ahead of the Anaheim Ducks so they won't have to open against the Los Angeles Kings in what would be a hard-grinding, physical series that leaves the eventual winner battered and bruised.

"That's the outside talking," Logan Couture said after an optional Friday skate. "In this room, it's win the division so you've got home-ice advantage. That's what we believe in here. Our goal is to get home-ice advantage and see who we play. It doesn't matter who we play in the West. They're going to be a good team."

McLellan won't even concede the premise that the Kings would be the most physical opponent.

"How do we know that? We don't know that. We can't assume that," he said. "There's a lot of hockey left. To begin to predict who we might play and what kind of series it might be is a complete waste of time on our behalf."

A Pacific Division title would mean a first-round matchup with one of two Western Conference wild-card teams -- at the moment, either the Minnesota Wild or Phoenix Coyotes. But there's also the possibility the Coyotes will pass the Kings -- and the Sharks could face L.A. even if San Jose finishes ahead of Anaheim.

San Jose Sharks’ Brent Burns (88) takes a shot against Anaheim Ducks’ Bryan Allen (55) in the third period at the SAP Center in San Jose,
San Jose Sharks' Brent Burns (88) takes a shot against Anaheim Ducks' Bryan Allen (55) in the third period at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. on Thursday, March 20, 2014. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) ( Nhat V. Meyer )

What McLellan does acknowledge with 11 games left is that the Sharks aren't focused only on finishing higher than teams in the Pacific but in the Central Division and Eastern Conference as well. Right now, for example, San Jose trails the St. Louis Blues but leads the Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche by a narrow margin.

"We want to put ourselves in the best situation for a long run," the coach said. "Will that happen? I don't know."

  • The Capitals are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race and have picked up three points in the first two stops of their California tour by beating Anaheim 3-2 and losing 2-1 in a shootout in Los Angeles.

    With Alexander Ovechkin scoring 20 of his 46 goals on the power play, Washington was tied for first in the NHL with a 23.9 success rate with the man advantage before Friday's games.

    "Their power play alone can win them games," McLellan said. "They move the puck so well. They've got triggermen all over the place. If you spend a lot of time in the penalty box, no matter how good your penalty kill is, they'll eventually get one by you."

  • Most of the attention Thursday night was on Brent Burns after San Jose's 3-2 win over Anaheim. But Joe Thornton figured in all of the scoring with a goal and two assists while facing the challenge of defending Ducks star Ryan Getzlaf.

    "I thought Jumbo led the way he needed to lead," said McLellan, adding praise for linemates Burns and Joe Pavelski as well.

    With the three points, Thornton moved into a tie for sixth in the NHL scoring race with 69 points. His two assists moved him into a tie for first with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, each with 58.

    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.

    San Jose Sharks’ Patrick Marleau (12) controls the puck against Anaheim Ducks’ Ben Lovejoy (6) in the first period at the SAP Center in San
    San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau (12) controls the puck against Anaheim Ducks' Ben Lovejoy (6) in the first period at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. on Thursday, March 20, 2014. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) ( Nhat V. Meyer )

    Saturday's game

    Washington (33-27-11) at Sharks (46-18-7), 7:30 p.m., CSNCA