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Kings, Sharks put winning streaks on the line

by Brian Hunter /
KINGS (21-12-1) at SHARKS (19-11-5)


Last 10: Los Angeles 7-2-1; San Jose 7-2-1

Season series: Second of six meetings this season between these Pacific Division rivals. Six different Sharks scored, Patrick Marleau leading the way with a goal and 2 assists, in a 6-3 victory at HP Pavilion on Nov. 15.

Big story: The winner of Monday's game will take over second place in the Pacific Division and close to within a single point of idle Dallas for first. Not only do Los Angeles and San Jose each have 43 points, both come in looking to extend winning streaks. The Sharks have taken four straight, while the Kings extended their run to three by beating the Ducks on Sunday.

Team Scope

: All the scoring against Anaheim took place in the second period, with Wayne Simmonds opening it just 15 seconds after the center-ice faceoff. The Ducks quickly answered his goal, but the Kings went back in front to stay on an Anze Kopitar goal that was assisted on by Marco Sturm, his first point in a Los Angeles uniform following the recent trade from Boston. Justin Williams and Dustin Brown added insurance tallies.

"It's not like Brownie and I are the slowest guys, but we're not the fastest guys, either. So Marco's speed and his ability to skate is a welcome addition to our line," Kopitar said. "He's making plays and he's very good around the net, and that's what we needed. Everyone's got their strengths and weaknesses, so it's just a matter of getting used to him and his style of play and just build some chemistry."

Sharks: This is the finale of a three-game homestand for San Jose, which is coming off a three-day holiday break. The Sharks' last game before Christmas was a 4-1 win Thursday over the Coyotes, the third game in a row in which they allowed just a single goal. Antero Niittymaki started the first two in that stretch and Antti Niemi was stellar in making 24 saves against Phoenix, aided by a pair of third-period goals from Marleau that helped the Sharks pull away.

"We've been playing really well. We've been playing really good hockey," said captain Joe Thornton, whose second-period power-play goal was the winner. "We might not get teams in the first period, but I think we're just grinding teams down with our size in the second and third period. We're finding our stride."

Who's hot: Williams has goals in three straight games and four of his last five for the Kings. Jack Johnson has 1 goal and 3 assists during a three-game points streak. ... Marleau has 2 goals and 3 assists during a three-game points streak for the Sharks. Thornton has 1 goal and 3 assists in the last two games.

Injury report
: Los Angeles is missing defenseman Willie Mitchell (lower body) and forward Scott Parse (hip).

Stat pack: The 78 goals given up by the Kings this season are the fewest in the Western Conference. ... The Sharks had three power-play goals in their game against the Coyotes, tying a season high.

Puck drop: Brown echoed Kopitar's excitement in being able to add a player of Sturm's magnitude to the top line in Los Angeles.

"Marco's a really smart player. He's scored 20-30 goals in this League for a number of years, and now we have that other winger that can find the back of the net pretty consistently," Brown said.

"It will take a few games, and it's a matter of him getting up to game speed. ... It's tough for a player to get acclimated so quickly after a trade and coming back from an injury."
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