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At the Rink: Kings at Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The surging San Jose Sharks have climbed from sixth place to second in the Pacific Division over the past 15 days and cut the first-place Los Angeles Kings' lead over them in the Pacific Division from 16 points to eight.

The Sharks have a chance to pull even closer at SAP Center on Sunday when they face the shorthanded Kings, who will be without suspended top-line forward Milan Lucic (10 p.m. ET; SN, FS-W, CSN-CA).

Lucic was suspended one game without pay Sunday by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for roughing Arizona Coyotes defenseman Kevin Connauton at 6:55 of the third period of a 3-2 loss on Saturday. This is the third suspension of Lucic's NHL career.

Tanner Pearson is expected to move from the fourth line to the top line, and forward Jordan Nolan will replace Lucic in the lineup.

"We want to put as much pressure on them as we possibly can," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said after a team meeting Sunday morning. "You only get so many of these opportunities for these four-point games. This is an important game for us."

The Sharks (25-18-3) have gone 7-0-1 in their past eight games, a run that started Jan. 9 with a 7-0 home victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Kings (29-15-3) are 3-3-1 over their past seven games and have lost two straight.

"Yeah, it's a big game," San Jose center Logan Couture said. "We can inch a little bit closer to these guys. It seemed like not too long ago we were pretty far away from them. So yeah, it's a very, very big game."

The Sharks were 18-18-2 with 38 points going into their game against Toronto, one point ahead of the last-place Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific. The Kings were 26-12-2 with 54 points.

At that point, the Sharks were 5-12-0 at home. Since then, they've gone 4-0-1 at SAP Center.

"We want to keep that rolling, especially at home, especially against a rival," Couture said. "We want to stay hot. Everyone's playing pretty well right now so hopefully we can keep it going."

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones will start against his former team for the fourth time this season; he's 2-1-0 with a 2.67 goals-against average and .906. save percentage.

"He's got the game face the same every game," DeBoer said. "But, you know, there's extra emotion there. There always is when you're playing your old team, and it's not that far in the rearview mirror. It's still pretty fresh that I'm sure that he's got a little extra excitement here today."

Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth will make his eight start of the season and first since Jan. 4. He is 1-0-0 with a 1.01 GAA and .975 save percentage against the Sharks; he made 39 saves Oct. 22 in a 4-1 win.

Enroth is 4-0-0 with a 1.19 GAA and .962 save percentage against San Jose in his career.

Here are the projected lineups:


Tanner Pearson - Anze Kopitar - Tyler Toffoli

Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Dustin Brown

Marian Gaborik - Vincent Lecavalier - Trevor Lewis

Andy Andreoff - Nick Shore - Jordan Nolan

Brayden McNabb - Drew Doughty

Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez

Christian Ehrhoff - Luke Schenn

Jhonas Enroth

Jonathan Quick

Injured: Matt Greene (shoulder), Kyle Clifford (upper body)

Scratched: Jamie McBain


Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Joel Ward

Joonas Donskoi - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels

Melker Karlsson - Chris Tierney - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon - Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock

Injured: None

Scratched: Matt Tennyson, Dainius Zubrus

Status report: Zubrus will be a healthy scratch for the third straight game since being activated from injured reserve. He was on IR for seven games with an upper-body injury. "He could play if we needed him, but I also think he's benefiting from the rest with what he was dealing with," DeBoer said. "It just doesn't make sense to make any changes."

Who's hot: Thornton has an eight-game point streak (two goals, nine assists). ... Pavelski scored his NHL-leading eighth game-winning goal Saturday against the Minnesota Wild. He has four points in his past two games. ... Toffoli has three goals in his past six games and leads the Kings with 22 goals.

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