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Sharks go for home-and-home sweep of Kings

by Matthew Mankiewich

SHARKS (12-8-6) at KINGS (14-10-2)

TV: CSN-California, FS-West

Last 10: San Jose 4-3-3. Los Angeles 6-4-0

Season series: Second of four overall and the back end of a home-and-home that began Thursday night in HP Pavilion, a game the Sharks won 4-3 after holding off a last-ditch third-period attack by the Kings.

Big story: Both teams, along with Minnesota, have 30 points in 26 games and are in a group of eight teams that are within four points in the Western Conference playoff scramble. A win could vault one of these teams as high as fourth; a regulation loss could put the loser on the outside of the playoff picture.

Team Scope:

Sharks: The wake-up call came in the form of a second-period Andrew Desjardins hit on Colin Fraser. The hit was legal; L.A. defenseman Jake Muzzin's response wasn't. Muzzin was called for instigating, unsportsmanlike conduct (instigating with a visor) and a 10-minute misconduct in addition to the five for fighting, giving the Sharks a four-minute power play. San Jose converted both ends as Matt Irwin and Logan Couture scored to turn a 1-0 lead into 3-0. Logan Couture added a third-period goal that became the winner after the Kings cut a 4-1 deficit to 4-3. It was the Sharks' first four-goal game since Jan. 27, a 6-9-5 stretch. It was also only their second regulation win in 11 games.

"It's always a positive when you make a play like that. It's just like making an assist," Desjardins told the San Jose Mercury News about the hit and the ensuing fight. "Just something to try and get the boys to feed off of, and it worked."

"He turned the game totally around with that hit," Sharks captain Joe Thornton said.

Kings: One big difference between this season's team and last year's Stanley Cup-winning squad is the scoring, now at 2.88 goals per game, good for 10th best in the NHL, versus a second-worst 2.29 last year. While the puck is getting into the net more often, captain Dustin Brown is more concerned about too many pucks going into L.A.'s net -- the Kings own a very middle-of-the-pack 2.62 goals-against average, a big jump from last season's 2.07 GAA that was second-best in the NHL.

"The last three games we've lost, we've been giving up four and five goals," he pointed out to the Kings' website." A lot of games we win, 6-5.

"We've got to clean up our D-zone. We're trying to climb out of 4-0, 4-1. It's not an easy thing to do. At the end of the day, our goals against has got to come down. You look at why we were successful last year - we weren't scoring a lot of goals, but we were winning games 1-0 and 2-1. We've got to really tighten up our D-zone."

Who's hot: Couture's three-point night on Thursday gives him five points in four games. Thornton and Patrick Marleau picked up assists to extend their individual points streaks to three games. … Brown scored twice Thursday to give him five goals in three games.

Injury report: Sharks goalie Thomas Greiss (back) was placed on IR Monday, retroactive to March 6. Forward Martin Havlat (lower body) has missed two games but is still considered day to day. … Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell (knee) underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy on Tuesday, but has no set date to return, Defenseman Matt Greene (back) hasn't played for almost two months and there's no sign of his return.

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