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Sharks' pursuit of Pacific continues against L.A.

by Eric Goodman
KINGS (45-27-6) at SHARKS (46-23-9)

TV: Versus (HD), NHLN-CA, CSN-CA (HD).

Last 10: Los Angeles 7-2-1; San Jose 7-1-2.

Season series: This is the last of six regular-season games between these Pacific Division rivals. The Kings hold a 3-2-0 advantage over the Sharks, with two of those three wins coming via the shootout.

Big story: While the Sharks have already clinched a playoff spot, the Pacific Division remains up for grabs as San Jose still needs one more win over its final four games to grab its fourth straight division crown. But the Kings can inch within three points of the division lead with a regulation win at San Jose Monday. If Los Angeles ends the regular season atop the Pacific, it would mark its first division title since it won the old Smythe Division back in the 1990-91 season.

Team Scope:

Kings: Los Angeles has turned it on down the stretch with victories in five of its last six games and a 9-2-1 record over its last 12. The Kings have also been great on the road recently with six victories out of their last seven games played away from Staples Center.

The Kings will aim to win their second straight on Monday after an impressive 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars this past Saturday. Right wing Wayne Simmonds chipped in with a goal and an assist, while goalie Jonathan Quick was solid between the pipes, making 31 saves for his 34th win of the season.

"It's a huge game for us," said defenseman Matt Greene, who notched the game-winning goal on Saturday. "We want to keep climbing. We want to keep getting points as we're closing out the year here."

Sharks: A recent 7-0-1 run has led San Jose to gain a firm grip on the Pacific Division lead, but its one loss during that stretch was a 4-3 shootout defeat at the hands of the Kings. However, the Sharks did bounce back to win three in a row after that loss to Los Angeles. In addition to trying to extend their overall winning streak to four on Monday, the Sharks will also attempt to stretch their home winning streak to six games.

San Jose found itself in a 2-0 hole after the first period in its most recent game against Anaheim this past Saturday, but a brief team meeting between periods appeared to light a spark as the Sharks went on to score four unanswered goals and take the game 4-2.

"We were talking about how we worked so hard as of late to get back on top of our division," said Devin Setoguchi, who had a goal and two assists in that game. "Just to let it slip like that and have a bad period wasn't something we wanted to do. We worked so hard and it's so easy to fall right back into a hole. That was the talk we had and it worked."

Who's hot: Quick is 4-1-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average over his last five starts for the Kings. The former UMass-Amherst goalie is also 2-0-1 with a 0.97 GAA in his career at HP Pavillion...Sharks alternate captain Patrick Marleau has 10 goals and seven assists in his last nine games.

Injury report: Top-scoring forward Anze Kopitar (ankle surgery) is out for the season for Los Angeles, while its second leading scorer Justin Williams (shoulder) isn't expected to return to game action unless the Kings go deep in the 2011 playoffs...For San Jose, Scott Nichol and Kent Huskins have been out since February and are still sidelined with upper-body injuries.

Stat pack: Sharks captain Joe Thornton needs just three more points to reach 1,000 in his NHL career.

Puck drop: San Jose is focused at the task at hand. While it realizes it probably won't have a shot at catching the first-place Vancouver Canucks this season, it knows that just one more win will secure them home-ice advantage in the first round.

"We're in a race for second," Setoguchi told the team's web site. "We can't catch Vancouver. We're not going to just sit back. L.A. and Phoenix are a few points back. We have a goal to get second and try to get home ice."
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