SHARKS (19-11-5) at KINGS (17-11-7)
TV: NBCSN, SN, TVA SPORTS
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings came back from the Christmas break refreshed and with one thing left on their wish list: consistency.
The Kings have been dogged by stretches of poor play, having given up four or more goals eight times in the past 15 games.
That has left them on the edge of the Stanley Cup Playoff picture, and their attempt to straighten themselves out begins Saturday against the San Jose Sharks at Staples Center.
"We want to get back into a more secure playoff spot," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We want to get into top-two in our division. It's not going to happen overnight. We want to win a lot of games in a row. So that's what we're looking to do -- get as many wins as we can here in these five-game segments we play. We want to win every one if we can, especially big games like tonight against San Jose, we need to get these wins because they're bigger than a normal two-point game."
Doughty said the break was particularly beneficial for the Kings. He went back home to the Toronto area to recharge his batteries. Kings coach Darryl Sutter spent the Christmas break at his family's home in Viking, Alberta, although he said he didn't see enough snow. He would like to see more pucks in his opponents' net and less pucks in the Kings' net.
The Kings have scored 44 goals and allowed 42 in regulation/overtime the past 15 games.
"If you look at it over the last little bit, our issue would be goals against," Sutter said. "No question. We're scoring right around three [goals per game] and we're giving up right around three the last … probably 10-15 games. That's not going to get you very far in this League.”
Sutter does like their puck possession time. He would like to eliminate unforced errors and odd-man rushes. The Kings' power play has masked some of their issues, having gone 8-for-19 in the past four games. That has somewhat hid the scoring slumps of left wing Tanner Pearson and right wing Tyler Toffoli, among others.
"Considering we've scored how many goals we've scored and we haven't gotten production out of some guys for a month, it's pretty [decent]," Sutter said.
"Our goal at the start of the year was keep minor penalties down. We've done a really good job of that the past month. We should have a better record because of that, and we should have a better record because of our goals for."
The Kings are looking to avoid consecutive home losses for the first time this season. San Jose has points in 10 of 11 games (9-1-1) after an overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Monday.
The only expected change in the Sharks lineup will be right wing Micheal Haley, who skated on the fourth line in place of the suspended John Scott according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Here are the projected lineups:
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Tommy Wingels
Barclay Goodrow – James Sheppard – Melker Karlsson
Micheal Haley - Andrew Desjardins – Tye McGinn
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – Brent Burns
Scott Hannan – Matt Tennyson
Scratched: Matt Irwin, Chris Tierney
Injured: Matt Nieto (ankle), Tyler Kennedy (shoulder), Mike Brown (leg)
Suspended: John Scott
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Jeff Carter
Dustin Brown – Jarret Stoll – Justin Williams
Tanner Pearson – Trevor Lewis – Tyler Toffoli
Kyle Clifford – Mike Richards – Dwight King
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez – Matt Greene
Brayden McNabb – Jamie McBain
Scratched: Jordan Nolan, Andy Andreoff, Jeff Schultz
Injured: Robyn Regehr (upper body)
Suspended: Slava Voynov
Status report: Schultz skated with the extras. Quick was off the ice first and Niemi was off first for San Jose, according to the Mercury News. Scott begins a four-game suspension for punching an unsuspecting opponent.
Who's hot: Pavelski has four goals and two assists in his past six games and an NHL-leading nine power-play goals. Gaborik is on a five-game scoring streak, his longest since Dec. 17-26, 2011 and the longest by a Kings player since Williams had a five-game streak in 2013.