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San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings @NHLdotcom
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GAME: San Jose Sharks (35-19-12-6) at Los Angeles Kings (28-21-16-7).

TIME: Thursday, 10:30 p.m. EST.

If the Los Angeles Kings want to claim one of the last playoff spots in the Western Conference, they'll have to play better against the San Jose Sharks.

Los Angeles and San Jose play the first of three meetings over the final 2{ weeks of the regular season when the Pacific Division foes meet at Staples Center.

The Kings are in ninth place in the West, but only one point out of the eighth and final playoff berth. They play the Sharks three times in their remaining 10 games, and will likely have to earn points in those contests if they plan to qualify for the postseason.

Los Angeles, however, has had trouble with San Jose over the past two years. The Kings are 0-2-1 against the Sharks this season, and have just one regulation victory in the last nine games in the series since April 2002.

Los Angeles slipped to ninth place on Tuesday night, falling 5-3 at home to St. Louis. With the win, the Blues moved past the Kings in the conference race.

"I know the Blues were behind us, and it kind of hurt that we couldn't put a little cushion between them and us," Kings forward Ian Laperriere said. "But even if we were three points ahead of them, it doesn't mean that we would make the playoffs."

San Jose was on the verge of having its lead over Dallas in the Pacific shrink to one point on Tuesday, but scored two goals in the final 1:37 of regulation in erasing a three-goal deficit in the third period to forge a 3-3 tie with the Stars.

Jonathan Cheechoo scored both late goals, including the tying score with 34 seconds left, as the first-place Sharks maintained their three-point advantage over the Stars in the division.

"Scoring three goals on Dallas in the third is a tough task," Sharks left wing Scott Thornton said. "We had a playoff mentality and a never-say-die attitude. The guys stayed positive and we wanted to throw everything we could at them.

"For us, it was nice to get a point. It showed a lot of character being able to claw back."

The Sharks and Kings meet again in Los Angeles on March 31 before concluding their series in San Jose on April 4 - the last day of the regular season.

STANDINGS: Sharks - 88 points, 1st place, Pacific Division. Kings - 79 points, 3rd place, 9 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Patrick Marleau, 27 goals and 50 points; Vincent Damphousse and Brad Stuart, 26 assists; Scott Parker, 96 PIM. Kings - Alexander Frolov, 23 goals; Jozef Stumpel, 28 assists; Luc Robitaille, 48 points; Sean Avery, 236 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 16): Sharks - Power play: 16.1 percent (48 for 299), 18th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.4 percent (245 for 287), 5th. Kings - Power play: 13.5 percent (43 for 319), 27th. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent (248 for 305), 26th.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (24-18-8, 8 SO, 2.20 GAA); Nolan Schaefer (no appearances). Kings - Cristobal Huet (10-11-10, 3, 2.45); Milan Hnilicka (0-1-0, 3.75).

SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 2-0-1.

LAST MEETING: Saturday; Sharks, 3-1. At San Jose, Calif., Nabokov made 25 saves in relief of an injured Vesa Toskala, and Nils Ekman had a goal and assist to lead the Sharks.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 15-13-5-4 on the road; Kings - 15-11-9-1 at home.

Associated Press
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