Blue Jackets, Sharks meet for important battle in San Jose

The Columbus Blue Jackets have three chances left to help themselves secure just the second playoff appearance in team history. They'll try to make the first of those games count, as they visit the streaking San Jose Sharks in Sunday's clash at HP Pavilion.

Columbus enters Sunday one point ahead of Detroit for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. However, the Red Wings, who lost in a shootout to Vancouver on Saturday, are idle on Sunday and have played one less games than the Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets are also just two points ahead of Dallas, which visits Los Angeles on Sunday.

The Blue Jackets made their one and only trip to the postseason in the spring of 2009, when they were swept out of the first round by Detroit.

Columbus had matched a season high with wins in five straight games from April 9-17, but the streak ended with Thursday's 2-1 regulation setback in Los Angeles. Kyle Clifford scored the go-ahead goal in the second period for the Kings, who held on to beat the Blue Jackets at Staples Center.

The only goal allowed for Columbus came off the stick of Dalton Prout, while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 21 shots in the loss.

"It was physical and emotional, there's a lot on the line. They're a committed group and they're big. One thing they all do is defend. They make things difficult," Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards said of the Kings.

Although the Blue Jackets are 3-1-0 on a six-game road trip that is set to end Thursday in Dallas, they are still just 8-12-2 away from home this season. Columbus will get to close its season on home ice, however, as it's scheduled to host Nashville on Saturday.

Columbus is 2-0 against the Sharks this season, but the previous two meetings were both played in Ohio. The Blue Jackets have won three straight in this series overall, but have lost their last two games in San Jose.

The Sharks have won three straight and can officially clinch a playoff spot with a point in today's game.

San Jose is tied with Los Angeles for the fourth seed in the West and both teams have four games left in the regular season. The Kings play Sunday against the visiting Dallas Stars.

The Sharks rolled past Minnesota in its most recent outing, slamming the visiting Wild by a 6-1 score behind two goals and two assists from Logan Couture.

Martin Havlat had two goals and an assist while Raffi Torres and Joe Pavelski each added a goal and an assist for the Sharks. Antti Niemi made 26 stops in the win.

"He's driving our bus right now," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said of Havlat. "He's the head guy and he's making it happen and we're happy for him."

The Sharks are 2-0 on a four-game homestand and 16-1-5 as the host this season. San Jose will complete its regular-season schedule at the Shark Tank in Tuesday's tilt against Dallas before closing the campaign with games at Phoenix and Los Angeles.