Sharks-Kings: What to watch for

Sharks-Kings: What to watch for
March 20, 2012, 10:52 pm
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LOS ANGELES There are just 10 games remaining in the regular season, and one thing is certain if the Sharks play the way they did against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday, there are just 10 games left in their season, period.

Were going to have our hands full with L.A. waiting for us, said Ryane Clowe after the 5-3 loss to the Ducks on Monday night. Were going to have to play a hell of a lot better than we did tonight, thats for sure.

As much as a step back the loss to Anaheim was, the Sharks could still end up back in the top eight by the time the night is through. Other games to keep an eye on include Phoenix in Dallas, and Colorado hosting Calgary. The Sharks will hope first and foremost that both of those games end in regulation as all four of those teams are still in the hunt for what looks to be three open positions.

Three left with Los Angeles: Of the Sharks 10 remaining games, three are against the Kings. After tonights matchup, the teams conclude the regular season with a home-and-home against one another.

San Jose is 2-1 against LA, including a shootout win at HP Pavilion on Dec. 23 in the most recent encounter.

In all, the Sharks have eight games left in their division. San Jose is 7-8-1 in divisional play this season, including a 3-0-1 mark against Dallas, whom they face twice more.

Los Angeles is looking for its fifth straight win, and has played noticeably better since acquiring forward Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of a trade for defenseman Jack Johnson. Their four wins have come against Chicago in a shootout, and Detroit, Anaheim and Nashville in regulation.

The Sharks had a 3-0-1 streak snapped by Anaheim on Monday night.

Roster report: The Sharks are still without forward Michal Handzus (undisclosed), TJ Galiardi (upper body) and Tommy Wingels (upper body), all of whom did not make the trip to Los Angeles. The Kings are missing Simon Gagne and Kevin Westgarth.

Antti Niemi, who was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals to the Ducks, will likely make to make his 12th straight start. In 11 career appearances against LA in the regular season, Niemi is 7-2-2 with a 1.69 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.

The Kings will go with Vezina Trophy candidate Jonathan Quick, who is fourth in the league in GAA (2.00) and sixth in SP (.928). Hes a pedestrian 7-4-2 with a 2.36 GAA and .920 SP against the Sharks in the regular season.

Kings expect fired up Sharks: The Kings are well aware that the Sharks will be looking to quickly put Mondays poor effort behind them. This morning at Staples Center, Mike Richards told Rich Hammond:
I think were excited. You can feel it in here, that were excited for the game tonight. Im sure theyre going to be ready for it too. We have to be ready for the way theyre going to come out, because obviously they lost a big game last night, but as long as were ready to play, and expect the best out of ourselves, we should be fine.

Los Angeles has scored the first goal of the game nine times in their last 11 games, so the start will obviously be important.

Odds and ends: The Sharks are just 4-10-4 in their last 18 road games, with three of those wins coming against non-playoff opponents. San Jose leads the league with 34.4 shots per game. The Kings have allowed just 112 five-on-five goals, the fourth fewest in the league. San Jose has allowed the fifth fewest (121). The Sharks and Kings have each lost 13 times by one goal in regulation, tied for the most in the NHL with the Blue Jackets. The Kings are 8-3-0 in their last 11 games, outscoring the opposition 37-23.