Doughty: Kings want to knock Sharks out

723030.jpg

Doughty: Kings want to knock Sharks out

EL SEGUNDO When the NHL schedule was released last July, it was hard not to notice that the Sharks and Kings would end their regular seasons against one another with a home-and-home series.

It was fairly easy to predict those games would be meaningful, too, as the parity in the NHL seems to become more and more prevalent every year, and San Jose and Los Angeles were the odds-on favorites in the Pacific Division after meeting in the first round last April.

RELATED: NHL standings

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty made a mental note early in regards to these final two.

I think even in the first game this year, we all knew we had San Jose back-to-back at the end of the year, Doughty said on Wednesday from the Kings practice facility. We didnt want it to come down to these last two games like its going to, but we knew it would be two big games. I think thats why the NHL sets it up like that, because these two games mean a lot. Its going to make these games a lot of fun to play in, and to watch.

Neither the Sharks nor the Kings have clinched a playoff spot just yet. Los Angeles needs one point while San Jose needs two, although that could change by game time on Thursday when they meet at Staples Center. Ninth place Dallas will likely be wrapping up its game in Nashville just as the Sharks and Kings drop the puck.

In other words, the Kings could have a spot clinched already as fans in the Staples Center are still settling into their seats.

Either way, the Kings would love try and prematurely end San Joses season, as unlikely as that is now after the Sharks won two straight over the Stars. The Pacific Division title is still up for grabs, too, so the Kings should be motivated regardless of what the Stars do against the Predators.

Doughty said: We definitely want to do whatever we can to knock them out of the playoff picture. We want third place, and thats what were going to play for. These two games mean a lot, not only for third place but just being able to push a team like that out of the playoffs is a big momentum boost for us.

We dont have that point yet, Jonathan Quick said. We have to prepare for tomorrow and get ready to get two points. We cant be satisfied with just getting one point and getting in, we want to keep moving up. We want to win the division, and get that home ice.

It hasnt been smooth sailing for either team this season. The Sharks' struggles have been well documented here, while the Kings were forced to fire head coach Terry Murray in December and were mired in last place in the NHL in goals-per-game for much of the season (theyre now in 29th with 2.26, but have averaged more than three per game since the NHL trade deadline at the end of February).

Thats all in the past, now, though. In fact, those trials and tribulations could end up making the Kings more dangerous in the postseason, according to Jarret Stoll.

Weve gained a lot of experience and character, and went through a lot if we do happen to play well these next two games and get to the playoffs, Stoll said. Its been a long road. It hasnt been an easy one; its been a bumpy one for a lot of us in here. Firing a coach, having a new one come in here, thats never fun and never positive, and it wasnt.

That just shows the character of the group we have in here. We all care about each other, we all care about this team a lot, and we all know that we have a very, very good team.

Just like San Jose, the fact that playoff hockey has started early for the Kings as they battle to remain in the top eight could have a positive impact.

Or not, said Justin Williams.

I think it probably has its advantages and disadvantages, Williams said. You obviously want to play well going into playoffs, but its also nice to know a couple weeks before if youre going to be in or have a first seed to rest players and get them healthy.

The most important thing is playing well going into playoffs. We need to continue to do that.
Odds and ends: Kings coach Darryl Sutter said that winger Jeff Carter will miss the game Thursday with a reported ankle injury. Defenseman Slava Voynov did not skate, but will play against the Sharks. Los Angeles skated for a little more than an hour on Wednesday.

Sharks Jones, Tierney find more success in Vancouver in 4-1 win

Sharks Jones, Tierney find more success in Vancouver in 4-1 win

VANCOUVER – One of the more appealing NHL road cities, Vancouver dazzles with its beautiful mountain scenery and walkable downtown avenues.

The Sharks undoubtedly relish those aspects of their trips to British Columbia, but more importantly they’ve enjoyed them on a professional basis, too. San Jose won its 10th straight game at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1, kicking off the final push to the playoffs with a victory coming out of the bye week.

“I think we definitely got better as the game went on, and that’s what you’re looking for,” said Mikkel Boedker, who was one of four Sharks’ goal scorers. “We came out with the win.”

Two Sharks in particular have enjoyed their recent excursions into Vancouver. 

Martin Jones was the best player on the ice, making 35 saves in his hometown. He was relied upon early as the Sharks predictably struggled to get their legs underneath them in what was their first game since last Sunday.

Jones made an impressive stop on Loui Eriksson in the first period, and in the second he stopped Jannik Hansen from point blank range with the Sharks holding a 1-0 lead. Later in the second, it was saves on Alex Edler and Hansen again that preserved San Jose’s 2-1 lead at the intermission. Vancouver was outshooting the Sharks 30-16 after 40 minutes, but trailed.

The Sharks rewarded their goalie with scores by Boedker and Logan Couture on the power play to make the final few minutes of the third period relatively easy.

“When [Jones] plays like that it gives us confidence, and we’ve just got to stick with it and keep creating chances, and we did that tonight,” said Boedker, who snapped a 19-game goal drought.

“[Jones] was our best player tonight,” coach Pete DeBoer said.

Jones improved to a perfect 4-0 in Vancouver, all in a San Jose sweater, with a 1.25 goals-against average and .959 save percentage. He spent the bye week in the area, and had several supporters in the stands.

“It’s always fun playing in front of friends and family,” Jones said. “Happy to get the win here.”

Chris Tierney is another player who seems to thrive in Vancouver. He notched a pair of assists and centered the team's most effective line, after getting his first career two-goal game here earlier this month.

His new line, featuring wingers Tomas Hertl and Joel Ward, opened the scoring in the second period, with Hertl finishing off a pass from Tierney after Ward’s breakaway attempt crept just wide of the net. Later, Tierney got a secondary assist on Patrick Marleau’s second period goal, restoring the Sharks' lead at 2-1.

“They did a good job. I thought some of those guys had our better legs early,” DeBoer said of his third line. “It took some of our veteran guys a little longer to get into it.”

Tierney, who was scoreless in eight straight games since his last time at Rogers Arena on Feb. 2, said: “I thought we generated some good chances. I think we can get better, too. We kind of talked on the bench throughout the game of what we can kind of do to improve and where each other is going to be on the ice, but it felt good playing with those guys. It’s easy to create offense with them.”

In seven career games in Vancouver, Tierney has four goals and three assists for seven points.

“Something about the Vancouver air, or Canadian air,” he said. “I always feel good when I play here.”

After dropping a 2-1 overtime decision to Boston in their final game before the break, the Sharks had a five-point lead over the rest of the division headed into a week off. Saturday’s win pushes the lead back up to five points again on Anaheim and Edmonton, and they now have games in hand on both of those teams, too.

It all adds up to a good start in what is the final stretch before the postseason, and a quest for a division title. Overall, the Sharks are 3-0-3 in their last six games, and have just one regulation loss in their last 11 (5-1-5).

“It’s huge, that’s what you play the regular season for,” said Boedker, when asked about the Sharks padding their lead. “You keep trying to gain as many points as you can, and lately we’ve had some overtime losses, but we keep gaining points.”

Instant Replay: Sharks blow past Canucks in first game back from break

Instant Replay: Sharks blow past Canucks in first game back from break

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER – Playing for the first time since their bye week, the Sharks scored two goals in each of the final two periods to down the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1.

San Jose improved to 11-2-5 in its last 18 games, and increased its lead in the Pacific Division to five points over Anaheim and Edmonton.

After a lackluster first period without much action, the Sharks opened the scoring in the second.

Joel Ward took advantage of some confusion at the Vancouver bench, plowing ahead untouched for a breakaway. His attempt squirted just wide, but Chris Tierney pushed the loose puck to the front of the net where Tomas Hertl pounded it home at 3:31.

Vancouver tied it later. Brent Burns’ defensive zone turnover resulted in Daniel Sedin buzzing in a wrist shot short side on Martin Jones at 12:02.

The Canucks had a chance to take the lead on the power play later, after Micheal Haley jumped Joseph Labate for hammering Melker Karlsson along the wall. Bo Horvat was staring at an empty net, but fired the puck high with four minutes to go in the middle frame.

That allowed the Sharks to reclaim the lead on Patrick Marleau’s 22nd goal. The forward was set up beautifully by David Schlemko, who passed the puck through the seam, confusing Ryan Miller and allowing Marleau to tuck it in at 19:04.

Jones, who was outstanding for the duration of the game, made a key stop on Alex Edler’s wrist shot from the top of the circle with 20 seconds to go, keeping it a 2-1 San Jose advantage after two.

Mikkel Boedker added to the Sharks’ lead at 11:31, whooshing a wrist shot past Miller on two-on-one with Logan Couture. The goal, Boedker’s first in 20 games, was unassisted after defenseman Ben Hutton gave the puck away to the San Jose winger.

Couture capped the scoring with a power play goal, picking the top corner from the faceoff dot at 14:20.

Karlsson returned to start the third period. Early in the third, Labate answered the bell and fought Brenden Dillon, with Dillon seemingly landing more punches.

Vancouver was without five players due to a mumps outbreak in their dressing room, while defenseman Luca Sbisa did not finish the game due to the stomach flu.

The Sharks won their 10th straight game in Vancouver, including both this season, increasing what was already the longest winning streak ever by a Canucks home opponent. The road team has won 15 in a row, extending an NHL record.

Special teams

The Sharks capitalized on their only advantage of the evening, scoring just their second power play goal in the last five games (2-for-13).

Vancouver finished 0-for-2 on the power play, with both of its advantages in the second period. The Sharks are 10-for-10 on the PK over the last six games.

In goal

Jones, a North Vancouver native, improved to 4-0 in his career at Rogers Arena with 35 saves. He’s 29-15-6 on the season, starting 51 of the Sharks’ 61 games.

Miller fell to 16-18-3 on the season, allowing four goals on 26 shots. He’s 10-6-0 in his long career against San Jose.

Lineup

The Sharks were carrying just 12 healthy forwards, as Joonas Donskoi did not make the trip after coming down with the flu. Donskoi, who has been out since Jan. 24 after suffering an upper body injury, is close to a return.

Barclay Goodrow played in his second game of the season, skating on the fourth line.

Vancouver defenseman Evan McEnany was making his NHL debut, while Labate was playing in just his fourth career game.

Up next

The Sharks return home to host the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, and see the Canucks again on Thursday at SAP Center.

Saturday’s game in Vancouver kicked off a stretch of 22 games over 43 days before the playoffs.