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Sharks-Kings Preview

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Sharks-Kings Preview

GAME: San Jose Sharks (15-14-5) at Los Angeles Kings (22-14-1).

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

The San Jose Sharks have definitely had the better hand recently over one of its Southern California rivals.

The Sharks will try to extend their unbeaten streak over the Los Angeles Kings to eight games when the teams meet for the second time this season at Staples Center.

San Jose has beaten Los Angeles five straight times and is 6-0-1 against the Kings since a 3-2 loss on Feb. 17, 2003. Jonathan Cheechoo's power-play goal with 3.7 seconds left was the difference Oct. 28 in a 5-4 Sharks win in Los Angeles.

San Jose's Patrick Marleau also continued his recent success against Los Angeles with a goal and two assists. Marleau has four goals and six assists over the Sharks' unbeaten run against the Kings.

The Sharks are trying to avoid their first three-game losing streak since the late November four-player trade in which they acquired Joe Thornton from the Boston Bruins.

Nils Ekman scored in regulation but failed in the final shootout attempt Friday in a 2-1 loss to the lowly St. Louis Blues.

"We just didn't have the energy to get anything going," San Jose coach Ron Wilson said. "It was a struggle all night. We weren't generating any shots, especially in the third period."

San Jose has scored one goal in each of two straight losses. The Sharks scored at least four goals in each of their previous eight games, going 7-1 in that stretch.

San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, selected last week to represent Russia at the Turin Olympics, is just 2-7-2 on the road with a 3.27 goals-against-average this season.

Los Angeles returns home after a three-game road trip that ended on a sour note. Goaltender Mathieu Garon allowed three third-period goals in a 5-3 loss Friday to the Edmonton Oilers.

The loss also snapped the Kings' season-high four-game winning streak.

"We wasted a good effort against a very good team," Kings coach Andy Murray said. "But I'm not about to kick dirt on my players."

Garon is 5-1 with a 2.34 goals-against-average over his last six home starts.

Kings center Craig Conroy returned Friday after missing a game with the flu and scored, giving him three goals and three assists in a three-game points streak.

The Kings went 0-for-12 on the power play, ending a streak of six straight games with at least one goal. In its last 15 games, Los Angeles has 11 power-play goals in 109 chances.

STANDINGS: Sharks - 35 points, 5th place, 10 PB, Pacific Division. Kings - 45 points, 1st place (tied), Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Cheechoo, 16 goals; Joe Thornton, 37 assists and 49 points; Mark Smith, 53 PIM. Kings - Pavol Demitra, 18 goals and 44 points; Demitra and Lubomir Visnovsky, 26 assists; Sean Avery, 127 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 25): Sharks - Power play: 15.0 percent (31 for 207), 25th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (135 for 164), 14th (tied). Kings - Power play: 14.3 percent (36 for 251), 27th. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (194 for 236), 16th (tied).

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Nabokov (8-9-5, 0 SO, 2.90 GAA); Vesa Toskala (2-4-0, 0, 4.47). Kings - Garon (14-8-0, 0, 2.71); Jason LaBarbera (8-6-1, 0, 2.90).

SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 28; Sharks, 5-4. At Los Angeles, Cheechoo scored during a goal-mouth scramble with 3.7 seconds left as the Sharks won their second straight to close out a six-game road trip.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 6-11-2 on the road; Kings - 12-6-0 at home.


Associated Press
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