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Sharks-Kings Preview

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GAME: San Jose Sharks (38-26-11) at Los Angeles Kings (40-32-5).

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

After making their playoff chances a little brighter, the San Jose Sharks take on the Los Angeles Kings, hoping to carry the momentum into the final stretch of the season.

San Jose tied the Vancouver Canucks for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot on Wednesday, beating the Colorado Avalanche 2-1. It was the team's fourth road win in the last five games and moved the Sharks to within three points of the Avalanche for the sixth spot with seven games remaining.

"I think this is a big win for us, we're coming down to it, so we are tied for eighth now, and this was a huge character win," center Mark Smith said.

Joe Thornton scored his 27th goal of the season, but went his fifth straight game without an assist, his longest drought of the season. Thornton's 81 assists still lead the league.

Jonathan Cheechoo is looking to extend his six-game point streak against the Kings. He had three goals when the teams met in March and has 11 career goals against Los Angeles in three seasons.

Cheechoo, the Sharks' leading goal-scorer, has only one goal in the last six games.

Kings goaltender Mathieu Garon gave up five goals Tuesday in a 6-2 loss to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Garon had registered consecutive shutouts in his previous two April starts.

The Kings had two first-period goals, but Anaheim took control with five unanswered scores in the final two periods. Teemu Selanne scored three goals and Samuel Pahlsson added two for the Ducks, who outshot the Kings 41-18.

Trailing San Jose and Vancouver by two points with only five games to play, the Kings may have to win all of their remaining contests to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-02 season.

"For us there is only one way to look at it, we know we have 10 more points available for us out there," said defenseman Mattias Norstrom. "We put ourselves in a position where we don't have any other options."

The Kings are 1-5 against San Jose this season, with the only win coming on Dec. 26 at Staples Center.

STANDINGS: Sharks - 87 points, 3rd place, 16 PB, Pacific Division. Kings - 85 points, 4th place, 18 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Cheechoo, 46 goals; Thornton, 81 assists and 107 points; Smith, 93 PIM. Kings - Mark Parrish, 28 goals; Lubomir Visnovsky, 49 assists and 66 points; Sean Avery, 257 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sharks - Power play: 17.3 percent (78 for 450), 20th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.3 percent (296 for 364), 21st. Kings - Power play: 14.6 percent (74 for 506), 28th. Penalty killing: 78.5 percent (358 for 456), 29th.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Vesa Toskala (17-7-4, 1 SO, 2.72 GAA); Evgeni Nabokov (15-18-7, 1 SO, 3.08 GAA). Kings - Garon (31-23-3, 4, 3.16); Jason LaBarbera (9-9-2, 0, 3.17).

SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 5-1.

LAST MEETING: March 13; Sharks, 4-3. At San Jose, Calif., Cheechoo scored three goals for his fourth hat trick of the season. Thornton had an assist on all three as the Sharks won their third straight game.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 16-18-4 on the road; Kings - 25-12-1 at home.

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