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Sharks host Kings in potential playoff preview

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks appear likely to adjust their bottom three lines for their game Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings at SAP Center in a matchup that could be a Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference First Round preview.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he might "shuffle the lines around a little bit," and the odds are good that third-line wing Tommy Wingels will move up one line, trading places with rookie Matt Nieto to skate with center Logan Couture and left wing Patrick Marleau.

Fourth-line wing Tyler Kennedy will likely move up one line, trade places with Marty Havlat, and skate with center James Sheppard and Nieto. Havlat will join a line with center Andrew Desjardins and right wing Mike Brown.

"They're shifting quite a bit," Nieto said. "Just trying to balance the lines out and trying to get production from everyone. We'll see how it goes.

"I don't mind it at all. Playing with [Sheppard], he's been doing really well lately. [Kennedy] has been doing well. I'm excited. It should be fun."

Wingels said, "I'd feel comfortable skating with any one of our forwards. My spot in the lineup throughout the year has shown I'm a guy that gets moved around. So whoever it happens to be tonight, I'm happy with that."

San Jose is trying to overtake the first-place Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific Division. The Sharks trail the Ducks by three points and have five games remaining compared to six for the Ducks, who own the tiebreaker.

"Right now the likelihood of playing [the Los Angeles Kings] in the playoffs is pretty great, so this game is really important," Nieto said. "We haven't had the success we've wanted against them this year, so this game is huge for us heading into the playoffs."

The Sharks are 1-2-1 against Los Angeles this season. Their win came in a shootout at San Jose on Nov. 27.

"As far as the games go between us, they have been the better team," McLellan said. "They have been the better team statistically in a lot of categories, and when we went back and reviewed the four games, it was a little bit sobering. We have work to do. I think that's a big challenge for our team."

Antti Niemi was the first Sharks goaltender off the ice at the morning skate, an indication he'll start against the Kings.

The Kings, who clinched a playoff berth Wednesday night with a 4-0 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes, did not skate Thursday morning.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has started three straight games and eight of the past nine. He blanked the Sharks in a 1-0 victory Jan. 27 at SAP Center, ending a streak of 15 straight wins for the home team in games between the Kings and Sharks, including the playoffs.

Martin Jones, Quick's backup, has faced the Sharks once, a 4-1 victory on Dec. 19 at Staples Center.

The Kings have won eight straight road games and haven't lost on the road since Jan. 28 against Phoenix.

Here are the projected lineups for the Kings and Sharks:


Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams

Tanner Pearson - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli

Jordan Nolan - Jarret Stoll - Dustin Brown

Kyle Clifford - Mike Richards - Trevor Lewis

Drew Doughty - Jake Muzzin

Robyn Regehr - Slava Voynov

Willie Mitchell - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Scratched: Matt Greene

Injured: Dwight King (undisclosed)


Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels

Matt Nieto - James Sheppard - Tyler Kennedy

Marty Havlat - Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers

Dan Boyle - Scott Hannan

Brad Stuart - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: Matt Irwin, Raffi Torres

Injured: Tomas Hertl (knee), Adam Burish (hand)

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