KINGS (20-14-12) at SHARKS (24-17-6)
7:30PM PT, TV: NBC SPORTS NETWORK; RADIO: AM 790 KABC
BAY AREA: Tonight marks the third of five meetings with the Sharks this season, and the first of two at San Jose’s SAP Center. The teams have split their first two meetings, both of which were played at STAPLES Center. The Sharks are playing the fourth game of their seven-game home stand, where they’ve posted a 1-1-1 record thus far. San Jose is coming off of a 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils Monday night. The Kings will be playing their first game away from Los Angeles tonight since January 1. The Kings are coming off of a seven-game home stand where they went 1-2-4.
BEFORE THE BREAK: Tonight marks the Kings’ final game before the NHL’s 2015 All-Star break, and they’ll be looking to slide out of a slump that has seen them win just two games in their last 10 (2-3-5). The Kings trail the Calgary Flames by one point for the Western Conference’s final wild-card playoff spot. For Kings’ defenseman Drew Doughty, it’s important for the Kings to pocket the two points in San Jose before the club enters the break.
“We need to be in that playoff spot before the break. No doubt about it,” Doughty said after practice on Tuesday. “We need to win this game. It’s a division game and it’s a big rivalry. We need to win it, and we need to go into the break feeling good about ourselves.”
LINEUP NOTES: Per Jon Rosen, who attended the Kings’ morning skate at SAP Center, there were no real line rushes held, but below are how the forwards skated. The defense pairings listed below are going off of how the Kings skated against the Calgary Flames Monday night:
GABORIK – KOPITAR – BROWN
KING – SHORE – CARTER
LEWIS – STOLL – WILLIAMS
CLIFFORD – ANDREOFF – RICHARDS – NOLAN
MUZZIN – DOUGHTY
REGEHR – MARTINEZ
MCNABB – GREENE
BEATING NIEMI: The Kings will see Antti Niemi for the third time this season, as he is expected to get the call for the Sharks tonight. Niemi shutout the Kings on October 8, making 34 saves in a 4-0 San Jose win. On December 27, the Kings beat Niemi three times on 29 shots in their 3-1 win over the Sharks. Tonight will be the first time the Kings will see Niemi on the road this season. In nine career regular season starts against the Kings at SAP Center, Niemi has only lost once, posting an 8-1-0 record.
FLIP THE SWITCH: After trudging through an uncharacteristically unsuccessful home stand, can the Kings get back to their winning ways on the road tonight? The Kings enter the game with a 5-8-6 record in 19 games away from STAPLES Center this season, but visit a Sharks club that hasn’t been too hot on home ice as of late. After winning eight straight games at SAP Center through November and December, the Sharks have only picked up a single win in their last six games (1-4-1) played in San Jose. Can the Kings keep the Sharks struggling on home ice tonight?
BIRTHDAY BOY: Jonathan Quick, who is celebrating his 29th birthday today, is expected to get the start for the Kings tonight.
THE LAST TIME AROUND: In three regular season games at San Jose’s SAP Center last season, the Kings posted a 1-1-1 record. The Kings lost in their previous regular season visit, losing 2-1 to the Sharks on April 3. Jordan Nolan scored the only goal for the Kings in the 2-1 loss; Martin Jones made 19 saves on the 21 shots he faced. The Kings have only won one regular season game at SAP Center in their previous nine visits, dating back to December 27, 2010. That win came on January 27 of last season.
WE’RE DOING IT LIVE: Tonight’s game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network with coverage beginning at 7:30PM. There will be no coverage tonight on FOX SPORTS WEST, but you can listen to the game live on AM 790 KABC.