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Darryl Sutter returns to San Jose as Kings coach

by John Kreiser

KINGS (16-14-4) at SHARKS (18-10-3)


LAST 10: Los Angeles 4-4-2; San Jose 5-3-2

Season Series: The California rivals are meeting for the third time this season. They split the first two, with each club winning by two goals at home.

Big Story: One night after winning his debut behind the Kings' bench, Darryl Sutter will try to make it 2-for-2 by beating the team he coached from 1997 through the early stages of the 2002-03 season. Kings GM Dean Lombardi, who hired him to coach when he was running San Jose, brought Sutter in to replace interim coach John Stevens a week after Terry Murray was let go.

Team Scope:

Kings : Sutter was just 3:11 away from winning his debut in regulation before Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky tied the game by beating Jonathan Quick. But Dustin Brown got the winner in the shootout to give Sutter his first victory as an NHL coach since he stepped down behind the bench in Calgary at the end of the 2005-06 season.

Sutter didn't make a lot of tactical changes, but there was a discernible boost in the energy level -- though he insisted he had nothing to do with it.

"It's no big deal. That's no big deal. It's really got nothing to do with me," he said. "These young guys, that's a big reason why I came, these young guys and then the quality of the type of people that we have with our veterans. That's really important.

"We've just kind of got to edge our way along. If we had lost 3-2 tonight in a shootout, I'd still be saying the same things, and some of us would not be agreeing with me. You've got to walk before you can run. Like I said yesterday, it's a 3-2 league and it was 3-2 again.''

Sharks : There's been plenty of holiday cheer in the Bay Area, where the Sharks have won the first three of their six-game homestand. That includes a 7-2 win against Tampa Bay on Tuesday in which the Sharks set a franchise record for the fastest five goals at the start of a game as they blew the game open in the first period.

The Sharks have 15 goals during the three home wins and are getting goals from all four lines.

"We're getting production from the guys who are supposed to produce, who are being paid to produce and that always helps," forward Ryane Clowe told the San Jose Mercury News. "And then you combine that with other lines contributing like last night. That makes for a good mix."

Who's Hot: Kings center Mike Richards had a goal Thursday in his return from a concussion. He leads the team with 12. … Sharks captain Joe Thornton and forward Joe Pavelski have five points during a four-game scoring streak. Logan Couture is coming off a two-goal game against the Lightning.

Injury Report: With Richardson back, the only injured King is forward Scott Parse, who's out for the season after hip surgery. … San Jose's Martin Havlat is out for at least 6-8 weeks after having surgery to repair a torn leg tendon. Coach Todd McLellan says defensemen Jim Vandermeer and Douglas Murray are questionable with hand injuries.

Stat Pack: Despite the win, the Kings extended their club-record streak of scoring two or fewer non-shootout goals to 13 games. They are 5-7-1 in those games. … Dustin Brown has the shootout winner in each of the Kings' last two games. … The Sharks are still 29th on the penalty kill but are 7-for-7 in their last two games.

Puck Drop: Los Angeles is Sutter's fourth coaching home, but he lasted the longest and won the most in San Jose -- he won 192 games and took the Sharks to five consecutive postseasons, including two trips to the second round of the playoffs. He ranks second behind Ron Wilson (206) on the franchise's all-time victory list -- though the current coach, Todd McLellan, could pass both of them within the year.

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