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Kings, Sharks set to renew rivalry

by Mike Battaglino

KINGS (14-9-2) at SHARKS (11-8-6)

TV: FS-West, CSN-California

Last 10
: Los Angeles 7-3-0; San Jose 3-4-3

Season series: This is the first of four meetings, with the second Saturday. The Sharks won four of six meetings against the Kings last season, with three victories going past regulation.

Big story: Los Angeles hasn't lost two games in a row since Feb. 7-10; San Jose has two regulation wins since Jan. 31. Despite that, the teams are separated by two points in the Western Conference standings, with the Kings holding a 30-28 edge.

Team Scope:

Los Angeles has gone 11-4-0 since starting the season with three wins in 10 games.

"I think it's important for us to realize that we got off to a rough start and we've been playing better hockey as of late," forward Dustin Brown said, according to The Associated Press. "But if you look at the standings, any night you're not getting points, you're falling. That's just the nature of the Western Conference and the shortened season."

The Kings have played five games within the Pacific Division, going 2-3-0, including a 5-2 loss at Phoenix on Tuesday that ended a stretch of three games in four nights after another of four in six.

Los Angeles plays five more division games in the next eight days.

"The next [few] days are going to be pretty important to this group," Brown told the Los Angeles Times. "That's where you can really separate yourself from the pack."

Sharks: San Jose's recent troubles have not seeped into HP Pavilion, where the Sharks are 7-1-4 this season. But this is the last home game before a five-game road trip that begins at Staples Center and includes two games against the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks.

"At the end of the day, you've got to win games," defenseman Dan Boyle told the San Jose Mercury News. "People don't remember how you played game 12, game 18, game 19 -- they just remember if it was a win or a loss and we've got to find a way to win hockey games."

San Jose outshot the St. Louis Blues 41-21 Tuesday but lost 4-2.

"I thought it was one of our most complete games of the year," forward Joe Thornton said, according to the AP. "If we continue to play like that we're going to win a lot of games."

Tuesday marked the return of Brent Burns, who missed seven games with a leg injury after sitting out the first 10 games of the season following offseason sports hernia surgery. Burns, usually a defenseman, was used as a wing, scored a goal, and wound up playing some on the top line alongside Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

"I saw what I expected from him. I've seen it before," coach Todd McLellan said to CSN Bay Area. "He provided us size, speed and a shot up front. Played the game with -- I don’t want to say a reckless abandon -- but he played using his body, and attacked. I thought he provided our team a lot of energy. That was as good as we've been attacking in a long time, against a very good defensive team."

Who's hot:
Kings defenseman Slava Voynov has nine points in his past six games. Defenseman Jake Muzzin has seven points in his past five. … Sharks forward Scott Gomez has four points in his past five games. Defenseman Matt Irwin has three points in his past three games after getting two in his first 13. Goalie Antti Niemi is 3-1-0 with a 2.11 goals-against average in five home starts against the Kings.

Injury report: Kings defensemen Willie Mitchell (knee) and Matt Greene (back) are out. … Sharks forward Martin Havlat (lower body) and goalie Thomas Greiss (sore neck) are out.
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