|LAK||1||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
|SJS||2||1||0||(0 - 0)||3|
TIME: Saturday, 3 p.m. EST.
The San Jose Sharks are trying to hang on in the Pacific Division. Unlike what many might believe, there's more than one team chasing them.
Though their main concern is just making the playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings can finish ahead of the Sharks. These teams face off Saturday for the first of four meetings in the next three-plus weeks.
San Jose has seen its division lead cut to three points over Dallas, which has lost only once in its last 11 games. Those teams meet Tuesday.
The Sharks sandwich that contest with two matchups against the Pacific's third-place team. Los Angeles, which is eight points back with 13 games left, hosts San Jose on Thursday and again on March 31 before the teams close the regular season on April 4.
The Kings enter this meeting tied with Nashville for seventh place in the Western Conference, one point ahead of St. Louis.
"The greatest thing about us is we control our destiny," winger Luc Robitaille said. "We need to win our games and we'll be there in the playoffs."
Robitaille reached the 20-goal mark for the 16th time in his NHL career on Wednesday as Los Angeles completed a home-and-home sweep of Phoenix with a 3-1 win. Robitaille, who has six goals in his last 10 games, and Alexander Frolov scored goals in both victories.
"These are four big points," Robitaille said. "We're moving up."
Robitaille and the Kings, 5-2-2 in their last nine, hope to take advantage of San Jose's struggling goaltending and defense.
The Sharks have given up at least four goals in four straight games, though they ended a three-game losing streak with Thursday's 5-4 victory over the New York Islanders.
"It's not good enough," San Jose defenseman Kyle McLaren said. "We won tonight, but 41 shots (allowed), four goals, that's not us.
"For us to do some damage over the next four weeks and beyond, we have to get back to where we were. It's too much to ask of our goaltender."
Evgeni Nabokov, however, yielded two very soft goals Thursday. He has an abysmal 4.58 goals-against average in five starts this month, getting pulled from two of them. Backup Vesa Toskala has a mediocre 2.95 GAA in his last five appearances.
"We've got to tighten it up a little bit when the playoffs come, because you can't be giving up four goals to a lot of teams. They'll beat you," said Jonathan Cheechoo, who scored twice in Thursday's win.
STANDINGS: Kings - 77 points, 3rd place, 8 PB, Pacific Division. Sharks - 85 points, 1st place, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Frolov, 22 goals; Jozef Stumpel, 26 assists; Robitaille, 45 points; Sean Avery, 234 PIM. Sharks - Patrick Marleau, 27 goals and 50 points; Vincent Damphousse and Brad Stuart, 25 assists; Scott Parker, 96 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 11): Kings - Power play: 13.9 percent (42 for 303), 27th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.1 percent (241 for 297), 27th. Sharks - Power play: 16.1 percent (47 for 292), 15th. Penalty killing: 85.6 percent (238 for 278), 4th.
GOALTENDERS: Kings - Cristobal Huet (9-9-10, 3 SO, 2.42 GAA); Milan Hnilicka (0-1-0, 3.75 GAA). Sharks - Nabokov (24-18-7, 8, 2.22); Toskala (10-7-4, 0, 2.10).
SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 1-0-1.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 26; Tie, 4-4, OT. At Los Angeles, Avery scored the tying goal for the Kings midway through the third period thanks to a sloppy mistake by Nabokov, who had beaten Los Angeles 5-0 one night earlier.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Kings - 13-9-7-6 on the road; Sharks - 19-6-7-2 at home.