KINGS (20-14-12) at SHARKS (24-17-6)
SAN JOSE - The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, two Pacific Division rivals fighting to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, will each have one more chance to get back on track before the All-Star break when they play Wednesday at SAP Center.
With 54 points, the Sharks are in third place in the Pacific, one point ahead of the Calgary Flames, who own the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference, and two ahead of the Kings.
"It's a huge game standings wise," Sharks center Logan Couture said following the morning skate. "Yeah, it's at home. Yeah, we've got a four-day break or five-day break after this. Still, we know where they are in the standings. It's a massive game. We're getting to the last push here of the season where every point is huge. We've given away a couple points in our last couple games. We've got some injuries, they've got some injuries. We're going to have to battle for a point or for two tonight. I expect us to bring our best. We need to be a lot better than we were the other night."
The Sharks and Kings have been struggling. The Kings are coming off a 1-2-4 homestand. The Sharks have gone 1-1-1 in the first three games of their crucial seven-game homestand.
"It's really important," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said of the game. "We need to win. We haven't been playing too well. We're not getting wins and this is a huge team to kind of step up against. They're one of our biggest rivals. We know how well they play at home here, and we know how big of a challenge it's going to be. A win tonight I think would really give us a boost as a team, and it would be good going into All-Star break."
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he wants his players to begin their break with positive thoughts.
"For us it's an important game," McLellan said. "It's one of the seven that we talked about a week ago coming home. It's a game against a division rival and somebody we're fighting for playoff positioning, and it's also the last game before guys will leave and recoup. I want them to leave and turn their minds off. I want them to go relax. I don't want them to sit and think about what's right and what's wrong and all that type of stuff. They need that mental and physical break. So let's do that on a high note."
The Sharks will be missing two key players against the Kings, forward Tommy Wingels and defenseman Justin Braun. Both are on injured reserve after sustaining left hand injuries during a 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Monday.
Barclay Goodrow, who was a healthy scratch against New Jersey, will replace Wingels and Matt Tennyson will replace Braun.
"When guys go out sometimes it's a chance for another guy to step into the lineup, but it also means everyone else needs to pick up their game a little bit," Goodrow said. "Obviously Tommy and [Braun] are big parts of our team. Without them in the lineup everyone's going to have to pick it up and step up a little bit."
Goodrow had played 19 straight games before being scratched after a particularly rough game Saturday against Calgary. The rookie has two goals and five assists but no goals and two assists in his past 13 games.
"Just get back to how I was playing when I was getting points and producing and being responsible defensively," Goodrow said. "My game kind of slipped off a little bit."
Here are the projected lineups:
Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Dwight King - Nick Shore - Jeff Carter
Trevor Lewis - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford - Mike Richards - Jordan Nolan
Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr - Alec Martinez
Brayden McNabb - Matt Greene
Scratched: Jamie McBain, Andy Andreoff, Jeff Schultz
Suspended: Slava Voynov
Injured: Tyler Toffoli (mononucleosis), Tanner Pearson (leg), Martin Jones (back)
Melker Karlsson - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
Tomas Hertl - James Sheppard - Tyler Kennedy
John Scott - Andrew Desjardins - Barclay Goodrow
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon - Matt Tennyson
Matt Irwin - Scott Hannan
Scratched: John Scott, Dylan DeMelo
Injured: Raffi Torres (knee), Mike Brown (lower body), Mirco Mueller (upper body), Tommy Wingels (left hand), Justin Braun (left hand)
Status report: Schultz was not on the ice for the morning skate and was sent to Manchester of the American Hockey League. .... Brown is expected to move from the third to top line with Williams going to the third line. ... DeMelo, who was recalled Tuesday from Worcester of the AHL, took part in the morning skate but will be a healthy scratch. The rookie has not played in an NHL game. ... Nieto will take Wingels' spot on the second line.
Who's hot: Pavelski has a two-game point streak (1-2-3). He leads the Sharks in points (41), goals (23) and power-play goals (11). ... Thornton has a goal and an assist in his past two games. ... Kopitar has three goals and six points in his past six games. He leads the Kings in points (35) and is tied for the team lead in assists (24). ... Gaborik has five points (3-2-5) in his past five games. He leads the Kings in goals (15) and is tied for the team lead in power-play goals (6).