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Morning Skate: What a Difference a Week Makes?

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
The Kings scored six goals goals vs. San Jose on Jan. 4 but could only muster one a week later at STAPLES Center.

They were two games, eight days apart, with very different results.

On Jan. 4, in San Jose, the Kings beat the Sharks 6-2. On Jan. 11, at STAPLES Center, the Sharks beat the Kings 2-1. The difference? Special teams.

In the first game, the Kings went 3-for-5 on the power play, the first (and only) time this season that the Sharks had allowed more than two power-play goals in one game. In the latter game, the Kings went 0-for-5 on the power play.

There's no shame in struggling against the Sharks' penalty-kill unit, which has been the second-most successful unit in the NHL this season, but the Kings have been one of the few teams to have success on the power play against San Jose.

Only four times this season, in 50 games, have the Sharks allowed multiple power-play goals in a game. Two of them have been against the Kings, who also went 2-for-5 on the power play in a 5-4 overtime victory on Dec. 9 in San Jose.

The Kings and Sharks meet, for the final time this season, tonight at STAPLES Center.

"They're very aggressive," Kings coach Terry Murray said of the Sharks' penalty kill. "I watched their game last night and their game against Edmonton. Very aggressive. They're a veteran team that reads any kind of bobbled pucks, and they come right after you. So when you do have some success against them, it's because of a five-man unit moving the puck. The open guy, the man away from the puck, is the guy that dictates the pass. He has to work very hard to get available for the man that's with the puck, because of the pressure that's coming to him.

"That, to me, in the success that we've had against them, is a big part of the reason. Attacking out of our own zone with five, setting it up, moving it, everybody moving their feet and being alert, and then the attitude of getting pucks to the net."

The Kings have their work cut out for them tonight. The Sharks are 19-for-19 on the penalty kill in their last six games, while the Kings are 0-for-16 on the power play in their last three games. For the season, the Kings are 10th in the NHL in power-play efficiency.

"You've just got to shoot," Kings center Jarret Stoll said. "You've got to get pucks to the net. Sometimes, when a power play is struggling, sometimes you get too fancy and you're on the perimeter all the time, instead of threatening. Kopi [Anze Kopitar] has got to shoot more. Dewey [Drew Doughty] has got to shoot more. I've been getting shots lately. We've all got to shoot.

"We've got great net people in front, for tips and rebounds and stuff. I know, as a penalty killer, once they're shooting and firing pucks, as a PK guy you don't know where the rebound is going. You're panicking, kind of. You're scrambling. That's when most of the goals happen."

The Kings will stay with the same lineup tonight. Injured defensemen Davis Drewiske (shoulder) and Matt Greene (lower body) continue to make progress, but neither is ready to play yet. Jonathan Quick will start in goal for the Kings.

How wild are things in the Western Conference right now? By the end of the night, the Kings could either be in sixth place in the conference, or ninth place.

With a victory, the Kings would leapfrog idle Vancouver and Calgary and move into sixth place. If the Kings don't earn at least one point tonight, and Detroit beats Washington, the Red Wings would pass the Kings for eighth place.

"We can't control what the other team is doing. We need to just focus on ourselves," Murray said. "So we don't look at all the different scenarios -- I don't, anyway -- and the possibilities and the combinations of different numbers. We have to just come out and play, and be ready for a team that's coming off a huge victory last night (9-1 over Calgary), with a lot of momentum and four lines, actually, that were a big part of it.

"So we'll build on our momentum that we established in the third period of the win, in the shootout, and I think we understand the importance of a division game. It's a big rival game, with another California team, and we're going to have to come and make sure we're matching their intensity right away. There's no doubt that they're going to come out in the first period with the attitude of, `Hey, we played last night. We have to show them that we're ready to play with the same kind of attitude that we showed against Calgary.' They're going to be talking about it, so we have to be ready for it."

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