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ROYAL ROAD REPORT: OD 1000

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Defenseman Sean O’Donnell played in his 1,000th career game, but the Kings fell just short of a win, losing 2-1 in the shootout to the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion Saturday night.


Erik Ersberg, who got the call in net after Jonathan Quick started the previous night in Vancouver, faced a flurry of shots early against the struggling Sharks in the first period.

"It was a tough game for us," Ersberg said. "They had the power play in overtime and had some good shots, but I think we played the whole game really well. We had some big efforts by the whole team, unfortunately we couldn’t get the win but it was a good game."

Ersberg finished the game making 38 of 39 saves and is expected to start on Monday vs. Nashville.

"Playing on the road against San Jose and playing last night too, of course we want two points, but one point is better than nothing," said Ersberg

San Jose forward Milan Michalek was left unmarked at the top of the left faceoff circle and slipped the puck past Ersberg to give the Sharks the early 1-0 lead just five minutes into the game.

Rookie Wayne Simmonds got that goal back for Los Angeles early in the second stanza. It was Simmonds’ sixth goal of the season, assisted by Dustin Brown and Alexander Frolov.

Los Angeles (29-29-10) had its three-game winning streak snapped Friday with a 4-2 loss to the Canucks and after tonight, have now lost six consecutive road games (0-5-1).

"We played well," Head Coach Terry Murray said. "We played really well tonight for coming in to San Jose at 3 in the morning from Vancouver and coming out with that kind of performance. That’s as good as the Sharks can play with a full line up and lots of bodies coming back from the IR. It was a good point and a really big effort by everybody."

Sharks’ netminder Evgeni Nabokov returned from a seven-game absence due to an injury and was at his usual spot between the pipes for San Jose.

Nabokov is 14-5-1 at home in his career against Los Angeles, including two wins in two games against the Kings this year.

"I thought it was a good game," O’Donnell said. "We were talking afterwards if they (the Sharks) are not the best, they’re close to the best. I think San Jose’s got it. We knew they were going to be desperate after losing the other night. Detroit and Boston has been winning and San Jose we knew wanted that No. 1 overall and came out hungry.

"We hung in there, got one to even it back up and it was really anyone’s game. We feel that if we can play with that intensity, that kind of grit, the last 14 games we’ll make things interesting coming down the stretch."

The Kings needed a win badly, they still sit 13th overall in the Western Conference with 68 points - five behind Edmonton who currently owns the last playoff spot.

"Every game is a must win for us. We know that," Murray said. "We know the situation, we know the standings, we know the tiebreakers, we know the wins and what we have to do."

OD’ED ON GAMES

O’Donnell played in his 1,000th NHL game, collecting 187 points (27-160=187) and 1,619 penalty minutes during his career. O’Donnell becomes the 16th player to play in his 1,000th career game as a King. Rob Blake was the last player to do so when he hit that milestone on Nov. 4, 2006 at Phoenix. Other players who have played in their 1,000th NHL game as a King include Marcel Dionne, Ray Ferraro, Jari Kurri, Luc Robitaille and Wayne Gretzky among others.

"It means a lot. I’m not a guy who would get too many individual awards, All-Star Games and things like that, so other than winning the Stanley Cup it’s the biggest accomplishment that I’m most proud of," O’Donnell said. "It’s one of those things that it doesn’t take a year or two or 10 or 12, it takes a long time. You have to be durable and you also have to do something right out there to play that many games. I’m pretty proud."

O’Donnell ranks eighth overall on the Kings’ all-time list of games played among defensemen with 449. Blake tops that list with 805. O’Donnell is fourth on the Kings’ defensemen franchise penalty minutes list with 860. Blake is third with 1,231.

"I’ve played six years here. It’s where I first broke in," O’Donnell said. "I lived here during the lockout year and I lived in the LA area even when I was playing with Anaheim. I commuted back and forth. Since 1994, LA’s been home for about 11 or 12 of those 14 years so it’s a special place. It was nice to come back to LA and help some of the young guys. It’s nice to see this team move in the right direction. If I can help hurry that process along any way at all it makes me feel good."

SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS
This season, the Kings are 0-3-2 against the Sharks. San Jose owns a 16-4-1 record at HP Pavilion against the Kings since April 13, 2002.

In the Sharks previous two games at HP Pavilion they have a regulation and overtime loss. San Jose has not dropped three consecutive games at home since an 0-3-2 skid more than a year ago, Dec. 15, 2007-Jan. 3, 2008.

KINGS’ SPECIAL TEAMS ARE, WELL, SPECIAL
The Kings are 19-for-75 on the power play in the last 15 games (25.3 percent). They’ve scored a power-play goal in six of their last seven games and in 19 of their last 23 games. Meanwhile, Los Angeles is an impressive 22-for-23 on the penalty kill the last five games (95.7 percent).

"We had a meeting awhile ago and talked about our penalty kill and how we had to step it up and I think we’ve done that," goalie Erik Ersberg said. "It’s huge for us. In the last 14 or so games, it’s going to be key for us."

SO CLOSE…
Of the Kings; 68 games this season, 33 of them have been decided by one goal (15-8-10). Los Angeles is 14-4-8 in their last 26 one-goal games. Five of the last six Kings games have been decided by one goal (3-1-1).

Los Angeles dropped to 5-22-7 when surrendering the game’s first goal and are 3-21-5 when trailing after 20 minutes of play.

"Every game is close," Ersberg said. "All these teams are really good; you don’t get any easy games."

ON THE ROAD, AGAIN
The Kings concluded a two-day, two-game road trip with a 2-1 loss to the Sharks. They will head home to host the Nashville Predators before embarking on a season-long six-game road trip where they will visit Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas and Nashville.

Los Angeles will play 10 of their last 14 games on the road.

O’Donnell said it’s tough to play that many games on the road during the final stretch of the season, but he sees some positive in the amount of road games the Kings have to play.

"As crazy as it sounds, I think sometimes with a young team being on the road it's better," said O’Donnell. "On the road, we just play sound defensively, wait for the mistakes, wait for our power plays and capitalize. With a young team, we maybe don’t realize all the time how close we are and how exciting this can be. I think being on the road is better than being at home and feeling the need to put on a show for the fans and that added pressure with everything at home."

KINGS AFFILIATES GO 0-1-1

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Compiled by Cecile Nguyen | Special to LAKings.com
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