Sharks get their chance against rookie phenom Jones

Sharks get their chance against rookie phenom Jones
December 19, 2013, 1:00 pm
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The Kings' Martin Jones has three shutouts in the first six starts, all wins, of his NHL career. (USATSI)

Programming note: Sharks-Kings coverage gets underway at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California

LOS ANGELES – It’s the third time the Sharks will face the Los Angeles Kings this season, and the third time it will be a different guy in net on the other side of the rink.

Martin Jones, who has won the first six starts of his NHL career including three shutouts, will likely start for the Kings in their Thursday night Pacific Division showdown with San Jose. Jones has just a 0.82 goals-against average and .972 save percentage, and along with Ben Scrivens, has allowed the Kings to thrive while Jonathan Quick recovers from a groin injury.

“We have pro scouts who will give us a scouting report on him, and go from there,” Logan Couture said, of facing the 23-year-old phenom. “I don’t think we can change anything that we do. Just get shots and bodies to the net and try to get second chances. It seems like he’s saving everything right now.”

The Kings have won seven of their last eight games, and have amazingly allowed two or fewer regulation goals in 19 of their last 20. They lead the league with a 1.89 team goals-against average.

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“For our group it’s more about preparing to face six players, rather than one goaltender,” Todd McLellan said. “The five others that are on the ice do a tremendous job for them defensively and they position themselves well around the net. It allows the goaltender to feel comfortable, and make a lot of saves.”

The Sharks are just 1-8-2 in their last 11 games here (including seven straight losses), and the one win came in a shootout. They haven’t beaten the Kings in a regular season game at Staples Center in nearly three years, when Devin Setoguchi was the lone goal-scorer in a 1-0 San Jose victory on Jan. 1, 2011.

The Sharks ended a four-game road losing streak on Tuesday in St. Louis, 4-2, and will keep Marty Havlat – who had a goal and an assist in that game – on Couture’s line with Patrick Marleau.

Couture, who has just two goals in his last 16 games and none in the last seven, is hopeful that the new line can help to break him out of his slump.

“When [Havlat is] going, he’s awesome to play with,” Couture said. “He’s creative, he sees the ice well, and for myself playing with someone who sees the ice that well, hopefully I can find some spots where I can shoot the puck and score a goal here and there.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of good looks lately. Haven’t been able to score, and that’s just something that I think players go through. … Not every player is going to score like [Alex] Ovechkin does every year. Players go through ups and downs, and hopefully I can get out of it soon.”

It would be a good time for him to do just that against the Kings, who have jumped ahead of the Sharks in the standings thanks to a 14-2-4 run in their last 20.

“These are the fun games, the games where you play one of the best teams in the league,” Couture said. “We know how tight we are with them and how they haven’t given up any goals all year.”

Joe Pavelski, who has four goals in his last four games, said: “We know we’re going to have to go through them. We showed last year we’ve got to find a way to win in this building. It’s been a little while. It would be a good win for us here tonight.”

* * *

Antti Niemi will start in net for the Sharks. Since Oct. 30 in a game against the Kings, Niemi is 9-5-5 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in 19 starts.

Tyler Kennedy, a healthy scratch on Tuesday, looks like he’ll return in a fourth line role, although that was not confirmed at the morning skate.

Patrick Marleau will play in his 1200th career NHL regular season game.