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Kings-Sharks could be First Round preview

by John Kreiser

KINGS (45-26-6) at SHARKS (48-20-9)


Last 10: Los Angeles 7-3-0; San Jose 5-3-2

Season series: The Los Angeles Kings have won three of their first four games against the San Jose Sharks this season, including a 1-0 victory at SAP Center in the most recent meeting on Jan. 27.

Big story: The Kings are all but locked into third place in the Pacific Division, meaning that unless the Sharks can overtake the Anaheim Ducks for first, these teams will see each other again in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Team Scope:

Kings: Los Angeles is starting a four-game road trip after a 4-0 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday that locked up a playoff berth. It was a typical Kings' performance -- balanced offense (goals by Tanner Pearson, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar) combined with stifling defense and solid goaltending. Jonathan Quick saw 17 shots and stopped all of them for his sixth shutout of the season and the 31st of his career.

"We want to be playing good hockey going into the playoffs," Doughty told NBCSN. "We want to have some momentum."

The core of this team is largely the same as the one that led L.A. to the Stanley Cup two years ago. Doughty said the Kings are eager to get that championship feeling again.

"All this team wants is to have that feeling again," he said. "To have that feeling with this group of guys is our goal."

Sharks: San Jose played a rare run-and-gun game Tuesday when it blew a 3-1 lead and had to rally from a third-period deficit to beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-4. That left coach Todd McLellan happy to get the two points, though thoroughly displeased about the manner in which his team got them.

McLellan is trying to downplay the importance of the final regular-season game against the team the Sharks are on target to face in the First Round of the playoffs. He told the media Wednesday he's more intent on cleaning things up after the sloppy victory against the Oilers.

"More importantly, it's our team, our group polishing things up, getting our house in order, getting it where it needs to be," he said, "and [Thursday] will be a good test for it."

Who's hot: Quick is 6-1-0 in his past seven starts and has allowed 12 goals in that span. Defenseman Alec Martinez had two assists Tuesday and has 14 points in 16 games since March 1. … Sharks center Joe Pavelski has four goals and four assists during a four-game point streak. His 38 goals are a career-high. Defenseman Dan Boyle has goals in three straight games and points in five in a row.

Injury report: Los Angeles left wing Dwight King (undisclosed), who sat out the Kings' past two games, is day-to-day. … San Jose is without forwards Tomas Hertl (knee), Adam Burish (hand) and Raffi Torres (knee) are out, though Hertl was able to practice without a no-contact jersey.

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