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Sharks try to stay hot as they visit L.A.

by John Kreiser
SHARKS (43-23-8) at KINGS (41-26-6)

TV -- CSN-CA (HD); FS-W (HD)

Last 10 -- San Jose 6-2-2; Los Angeles 6-2-2

Season series -- The California rivals are meeting for the fifth of six times this season. They split the first four, with each team winning once at home and once on the road. They haven't seen each other since the Kings' 3-2 shootout victory at Staples Center on Jan. 26. San Jose is 3-0-1 in its last four visits to L.A.

Big story -- It's a big game for the Sharks, who are trying to hang onto the lead in the Pacific Division -- but an even bigger one for the Kings, who still have hopes of catching San Jose but are also scrambling just to make the playoffs in the Wild West. The Sharks come to L.A. for the last time this season after beating Calgary 6-3 at home on Wednesday. The Kings had two days off following their 2-1 shootout win against the Flames on Monday.

Team Scope:

Sharks -- The victory against Calgary was a true team effort. Thirteen of the 18 skaters who dressed had at least one point, giving Antti Niemi plenty of support in his 29th consecutive start. San Jose scored four times in the first period to take command.

"The outcome was great," coach Todd McLellan said. "When you score four goals in the first period, you've got to be pleased.

"It was a pretty good overall effort by a lot of guys. Everybody fell into place and did their thing."

Kings -- The Kings haven't seen the Sharks since before the All-Star break, meaning they've watched the surge that has carried San Jose to the top of the Pacific Division from afar.

"They seem to be coming to their time right now, where it is their opportunity to put it all together," Murray told Kings Insider when asked about the Sharks. "They've got a lot of experience, world-class players, a top line, a good back end, and they're just making the big push and they know how to do it right now."

Who's hot -- Sharks center Joe Pavelski, the NHL's First Star last week, has 13 points in his last five games, including a pair of assists on Wednesday. Patrick Marleau had a pair of goals in the win against the Flames. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick has allowed just two goals in L.A.'s last two games.

Injury report --
San Jose is still without defenseman Niclas Wallin (head). Defenseman Kent Huskins (upper body) and forward Scott Nichol (upper body) are also out. … The Kings are without top-line forward Justin Williams, who's likely to miss the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder.

Stat pack -- The Sharks have scored at least one power-play goal in eight consecutive games, a season-high. … Los Angeles has allowed just 14 power-play goals at home, tying the Kings with Nashville for the League lead. Overall, the Kings' penalty-killers are tops in the NHL at 85.9 percent. L.A. and Florida share the lead for the fewest power-play goals allowed with 36.

Puck drop -- The injury to Williams will give Oscar Moller, a 22-year-old taken in the second round in 2007, perhaps his best chance to show he can be a top-six forward in the NHL. Moller has bounced between the Kings and the AHL Manchester Monarchs -- always impressing with his effort and tenacity but drawing questions about his strength and scoring ability.

Moller has 23 goals and 50 points in 50 games with Manchester and will take Williams' place on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Penner. He knows this is his big chance to make an impact.

"To be able to play with two great players like this, right now, we'll see how it goes," he told Kings Insider. "It's a great opportunity to prove myself to management here and move forward from there. It will be fun, for sure."

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