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The San Jose Sharks won the Pacific Division title and made their fourth straight playoff appearance last season, while the Los Angeles Kings finished in last place in the division and missed out on the postseason for the fifth consecutive year.
A few days into the 2008-09 season, both clubs are in familiar territory.
One day after spoiling the debut of new Los Angeles coach Terry Murray, the Sharks look to improve to 3-0-0 under first-year coach Todd McLellan and sweep the clubs' home-and-home series as the division rivals square off at Staples Center in the Kings' home opener Sunday night.
San Jose has finished first or second in the Pacific and advanced at least to the second round of the playoffs in each of the last four seasons. Los Angeles, meanwhile, is five years removed from its last top-two finish and postseason berth.
The Kings hope Murray will be able to turn the franchise around, but he didn't get off to an auspicious start Saturday night. Los Angeles managed only 13 shots in a season-opening 3-1 loss in San Jose.
"I think the first game is always tough. They already had their one game," Kings goaltender Jason LaBarbera said, referring to San Jose's season-opening win over Anaheim on Thursday. "We just have to get a better jump. We looked like we were flat-footed out there, and we were watching them skate around."
Sharks winger Tomas Plihal scored a short-handed go-ahead goal at the 17:49 mark of the second period as San Jose notched its second consecutive win over a division rival. The Sharks have taken 41 shots in each of their first two games under McLellan.
"When you shoot, good things happen," said defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who had two assists Saturday.
Sunday's game will mark Rob Blake's return to Los Angeles. The defenseman spent 13 1/2 of his first 18 NHL seasons with the Kings - including the past two - before signing a one-year, $5 million deal with the Sharks in the offseason in hopes of playing more meaningful games in the spring.
"That's what you need when you get to this stage of your career," Blake said Thursday night. "It was a lot more difficult (in Los Angeles) the last couple of years than I thought it was going to be."
Things in Southern California, however, are looking a little brighter after the Kings signed center Anze Kopitar to a seven-year, $47.6 million contract extension that will keep him with the Kings through the 2015-16 season.
Kopitar's deal is the second-longest in Kings franchise history, surpassed only by Wayne Gretzky's eight-year deal in 1988.
"Anze is a special player, but he has also shown a strong work ethic and the type of character we believe is necessary to help shape the core of our team," general manager Dean Lombardi said in a statement Saturday. "Along with some of our other young core players, the commitment Kopitar has shown at a young age should continue to improve and elevate his teammates and the franchise."
The 21-year-old Kopitar led the Kings with a career-high 77 points last season, recording 32 goals and 45 assists while playing in all 82 games. He has seven goals and seven assists in 16 career games against the Sharks.
Los Angeles, which was 4-4-0 against San Jose last season, is 0-6-0 against the Sharks when they hold Kopitar without a point.