Kings surging while Sharks continue slide

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Kings surging while Sharks continue slide

LOS ANGELES It wasnt very difficult to see on Tuesday night which team is making a strong playoff push and which is staring down an early summer.

The Los Angeles Kings have won five straight games, and are playing their best hockey of the season. Their offense, which had been a huge problem, is clicking - and then some.

Since acquiring Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets a dozen games ago, Los Angeles has poured in 43 goals, including five last night against the fading Sharks in a 5-2 win. That averages to 3.58 a game, or a goal and a half better than their 2.11 goals-per-game rate before the trade.

Theyve done a really good job. Darryl Sutter has come in and put his mark on the team, Todd McLellan said. Jeff Carter is a 40-goal scorer. They dont grow on trees, and when you get them and put them in the right spots, they can be very dangerous.

They skate very well and theyre deep up front with Carter being here now, Joe Thornton said. They have a bunch of good forwards.

Add that to a strong defense corps and one of the best goalies in the game in Jonathan Quick, and the Sharks will have their hands full in the final two games of the regular season, which ends with a home-and-home against the Kings. That is, if the Sharks are even still in playoff contention by then.

Theyre playing very well defensively, said Marty Havlat, who had a goal and an assist on Tuesday. I dont think they give up any odd-man rushes and thats the most important thing right now. They always have three guys back. Its very tough to beat their defense and their goalies been great.
More from Boyle: Dan Boyle was brutally honest after last nights loss to the Kings, which we got into in the game recap. After Boyle said that the Kings were probably trying harder, he was asked how the Sharks could fix that this late in the season.

You work as hard as you can. You need everybody. I think we weve got guys going and others arent, thats not going to work at this time of year. We need everybody, Boyle said.

Watching the scoreboard: Did you keep an eye on the Calgary-Colorado, Phoenix-Dallas games last night? All five teams the Sharks are competing with for a playoff spot including Los Angeles were in action on Tuesday night, head-to-head.

Youre probably well aware by now that the Sharks are the only team that didnt get at least one point, as the other two games ended in a shootout (Dallas beat Phoenix, 4-3) and overtime (Colorado defeated Calgary, 2-1).

Mathematically, the Sharks have just a 37.6 percent chance of making the postseason, according to sportsclubstats.com.

Thats the name of the game these days. A lot of them are three point games. The last thing we need to do is scoreboard watch, Boyle said.

We cant control what happened in Dallas or Denver tonight, McLellan said after the game. Theres no sense worrying about it. Weve got to worry about our own group and what we can do. Weve got to get home, get some rest and play against the Stanley Cup Champions on Thursday, which will be a great challenge for us.

The Sharks, who have a day off on Wednesday, host Boston on Thursday.

From the Kings room: Heres what former Sharks coach and current Kings bench boss Sutter had to say about his teams 5-2 win:

I think tonight, because we had four lines and they San Jose played last night, they could push it a little bit; catch guys at the end of shifts, catch guys that played a lot, catch them a little bit tired and we looked fresher. That was the difference in the killer part of it. I think we took advantage of that.

Anze Kopitar, who has a goal in each of his last four games after scoring and adding two assists on Tuesday, said, Theres obviously always room for improvement, but tonight was a huge game. We knew what was at stake and I think we came up big. It was a full team effort and thats what weve got to do down the road.

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

Report: Division rival interested in Joe Thornton

The mere thought of Joe Thornton wearing a Kings sweater may be enough to cause some Sharks fans to lose their lunch.

But it might be a possibility.

According to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, the Kings consider Thornton to be a “priority” should be hit the open market as a free agent. While the two sides are currently allowed to express mutual interest, NHL rules forbid them from discussing terms of any deal until Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

Rosen points to a number of individuals in the Kings' organization that have ties to Thornton, including general manager Rob Blake, who played on the Sharks with Thornton from 2008-10. Mike O’Connell was Thornton’s general manager in Boston and currently serves as the Kings’ senior advisor to the general manager. Glen Murray, a former teammate and frequent linemate of Thornton’s with the Bruins for three-and-a-half seasons, is in Kings player development.

The Kings, under new management since replacing Dean Lombardi with Blake, and head coach Darryl Sutter with John Stevens, have put a priority on finding players this offseason that can get pucks to dangerous scoring areas. 

Adding one of the best passers in the history of the NHL would surely help in that regard. Thornton sits 13th in the NHL all-time with 1,007 assists.

Rosen writes: “Los Angeles has been a dominant possession team without being a high scoring team for the better part of the last six-plus seasons, and it was articulated earlier in the off-season that the team needed to do a better job of taking advantage of that possession discrepancy. In trying to find players with the ability to turn possession into actual production, the team has placed an emphasis on finding players capable of distributing the puck into high-danger in the attacking zone. There might not be another player in the NHL – let alone unrestricted free agents – who is as gifted of a passer of Thornton, which places the team’s needs in concert with the future Hall of Famer’s skill set.”

As reported here previously Thornton, who turns 38 on Sunday, is seeking a deal of three years. That might not be agreeable to the Sharks, who are likely to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term and expensive contract extensions that would kick in with the 2018-19 season.

Of course, Thornton could also be using the Kings as leverage to get a new deal in San Jose, where he would prefer to remain.

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

Tierney, Sorensen among players qualified by Sharks

The Sharks have issued qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow, while cutting ties with three players in the system.

Tierney, 22, posted 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 80 games last season, serving primarily as the fourth line center. He has 64 points (24g, 40a) in 202 career games over three NHL seasons, all with the Sharks.

Sorensen posted one goal and three assists in 19 games with the Sharks last season, his first in the NHL. The 25-year-old played in all six playoff games against Edmonton, scoring one goal and one assist.

Goodrow, 24, skated in three games for the Sharks last season with one assist. He has 16 points (4g, 12a) in 77 games over three seasons with the Sharks, although has played in just 17 NHL games since the start of the 2015-16 season.

Forward Nikita Jevpalovs, defenseman Patrick McNally and goalie Mantas Armalis - also known for his career as a male model - were left unqualified and are now unrestricted free agents.

Earlier in the offseason, the Sharks signed pending restricted free agents Joonas Donskoi and Melker Karlsson. Donskoi received a two-year deal at a salary cap hit of $1.9 million, while Karlsson was signed to a three-year deal at $2 million annually.