SHARKS (21-7-6) vs. KINGS (23-8-4)
TV: CSN-CA, FS-W
Last 10: San Jose 5-4-1; Los Angeles 7-2-1
Big story: Can anyone score on Kings goalie Martin Jones? The rookie is off to arguably the best start to a career in NHL history for a netminder by winning each of his first six starts, three by shutout. Albeit in a very small sample size, Jones' career numbers are a mind-boggling .972 save percentage and a 0.82 goals-against average.
"The last three or four years, being in the minors, you learn how to be a pro, and how to approach on and off the ice stuff, and the details that make you a good pro," said Jones, who was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week on Monday. "I've put in the work in a last little bit, and it's nice to see some results here."
Thursday night, Jones might be in for his biggest challenge yet when the offensively-potent Sharks visit Staples Center. San Jose, a winner of two of its past seven games, is in need of two valuable points against its division rival.
Sharks: San Jose's 4-2 win against the St. Louis Blues Tuesday may have been as much about turning the tide as it was about two points. The Sharks have struggled for most of December and considering they've played six of their eight games away from home that might not be a coincidence. Of the five games San Jose has lost this month only one, a shootout loss Dec. 10 against the New York Islanders, came at home.
The Sharks are two points behind the Kings, with a game in hand, and five points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the Pacific Division lead.
Kings: Los Angeles defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 in a return to Staples Center off a successful four-game road trip. The win helped the Kings keep pace with the first-place Ducks, who they trail by three points with a game in hand.
Though Jones' performance is remarkable, his numbers might not be quite as good without the Kings' impressive defense in front of him. L.A. has allowed a League-low 68 goals, but in recent weeks the defense has been borderline dominant. The Kings' 3-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in their road trip finale this past Sunday was the first time they gave up more than two goals since Nov. 2, a span of 18 games.
Injury report: Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan (lower body) is questionable for Thursday. Forwards Raffi Torres (ACL surgery) and Adam Burish (lower body) are on injured reserve … Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell (illness) is questionable. Goalie Jonathan Quick (groin strain), forward Colin Fraser (concussion) and defenseman Matt Greene (upper body) are on injured reserve.
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