SHARKS (32-10-8) at KINGS (27-18-3)
San Jose 7-2-1; Los Angeles 5-5-0
Sixth and final meeting of the regular season between these Pacific Division rivals. The Sharks may be tied for the lead in the Presidents' Trophy race, but the Kings have earned their respect in going 3-1-1 in their head-to-head matchups. Both of San Jose's victories have come by 2-1 scores, including the most recent game at Staples Center on Jan. 11. Dany Heatley's power-play goal in the second period held up as the winner and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 33 shots.
While San Jose is battling it out with Chicago for the Western Conference's top seed, Los Angeles is fighting just to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in eight years. The Kings begin play Tuesday with a one-point lead over the Red Wings, which can't be a comfortable feeling once you consider the postseason pedigree of the Detroit franchise. L.A. understands it must keep winning hockey games.
There had been a seven-game stretch recently when Heatley, Patrick Marleau
and Joe Thornton
were the only San Jose forwards to register a goal. Well, everyone else seemingly got well Monday night in a 9-1 thrashing of Calgary. Heatley did lead the way with two goals, but the Sharks also got tallies from Joe Pavelski
(first since Dec. 30) and some of the muckers and grinders like Manny Malhotra, Scott Nichol and Jed Ortmeyer.
"We've been playing hard, we've had our opportunities, and it's good to see it go in a few times … for all the guys tonight,” said Pavelski, who added three assists for a career-high four points. "It was just a fun game."
There are only two games remaining in a stretch of seven straight at Staples Center for Los Angeles. The homestand didn't start well at all, as the Wings edged the Kings to send them on a three-game losing streak. But things have turned around, with a 4-0 victory over the Ducks and a 4-3 shootout win over the Bruins. It took a two-goal, third-period rally Saturday afternoon in order for the Kings to claim two points.
"You lose one, you might be in ninth. You lose one, you might be up to seventh,'' forward Brad Richardson
said. "You've just got to try to give yourself a chance. Every point is going to help. You never want to look back at the end of the year and miss by one or two points.''
They don't often get to see their names in this segment, so let's mention Nichol -- who tied his career high with three points and registered the 100th of his career with his goal Monday -- as well as Malhotra (one goal, two assists) and Ortmeyer (one goal, one assist) for their multi-point performances in San Jose's big win Monday.
Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown
has goals in two straight games and three of his last four. Leading scorer Anze Kopitar
has two goals and two assists during a four-game points streak.
Kings defenseman Matt Greene
could return at some point next week from a lower-body injury that has sidelined him for the past nine days. Fellow blueliner Davis Drewiske
is on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, while forwards Justin Williams
(right leg/ankle) and Andrei Lokitonov (shoulder) are also on the I.R.
San Jose set a franchise record Monday with eight different players scoring goals. … Los Angeles has already tied its best mark for shootout wins in a season with six (previously set in 2005-06). Jonathan Quick
has all six of those wins, tying him for the League lead.
The Sharks have to move on quickly after routing the Flames, a fact coach Todd McLellan was well aware of when he addressed the media after Monday's game.
"This one's over. We're done, we have to move on," he said. "We'll get some food in us, some water in us, and get to L.A., get some rest. We know they're coming. They're a good hockey club."