Sharks-Kings: What to watch for

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Sharks-Kings: What to watch for

SAN JOSE The Los Angeles Kings, last in the NHL in goals, have led after the first period just four times in their first 34 games. One of those was on Nov. 28 at Staples Center against the Sharks, in what was one of the weakest efforts of the season for San Jose in a 2-0 loss.

The Kings have since changed coaches, but that game is still fresh in the minds of the Sharks and their head coach as the Pacific Division rivals meet tonight at HP Pavilion.

It wasnt a great game for us. We didnt have the start we wanted and dug ourselves a hole. I know they were a lot more intense and physical, and won a lot more battles, said Ryane Clowe. They wanted that game more and they were ready to start.

We know how L.A. plays, weve played them enough. We have to have a good start, and we have a couple days off after this game, so there are no excuses tonight.

Todd McLellan expects a fired up Kings group that will be playing its second game under new head coach Darryl Sutter, but thinks the Sharks should match that based on what happened the last time these teams met.

I know theyll be a motivated group with a new coach, and that coach having some ties to San Jose. Im sure theyll want to play for him, said McLellan. At the same breath, we should be matching that because of our poor effort in L.A. a couple weeks ago. We werent very good, and were outworked and out-battled for two complete periods.

Building momentum: The Sharks will be looking to build off of their most lopsided win of the season when they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 7-2, on Wednesday night. In was their third straight win, all at home, as San Jose improved to a perfect 3-0 on its six-game homestand.

Well try and do a lot of the same things that worked well, said Joe Pavelski, who will play tonight after missing Thursdays practice with the flu. I think the simple part of our game was good. When we get our opportunities we have to be ready. Thats the biggest thing, guys had some good looks and finished on them.

When you get on rolls and start to get on a winning streak, things come naturally, it seems, said Clowe. You get those bounces around the net. We want to keep that momentum on our side. Theyve got a different look over there with a new coach who is fresh in there, so its a good opportunity to establish our game early and dictate, like weve been doing.

Although the Kings score just 2.12 goals-per game, 30th in the NHL, no one expects the score to be as lopsided as it was on Wednesday.

These are two teams that are more familiar with each other. I dont think there will be any surprises, and that prevents games from getting to 7-2 or 7-3 or whatever it might be, said McLellan.

The Kings have won back-to-back games via the shootout, including a 3-2 win over Anaheim on Thursday night in Sutters first game behind the bench. Los Angeles has a brutal streak of 13 straight games without scoring more than two goals in regulation, though.

You have ups and down, same way sometimes as we have a tough time scoring goals. You have to reestablish your game on a nightly basis, find ways to the net, said Pavelski. We dont know exactly whats going on over there. Were worried more about ourselves.

Special teams improving: The Sharks spent two days at their practice facility on Monday and Tuesday with some intense work on special teams play. The power play and penalty kill had both been floundering before Wednesdays game against Tampa Bay.

They saw some fruits from their labor with two power play goals and none allowed on the penalty kill in five Lightning chances.

That probably was the best number that we had in here, for us, said Pavelski of the 5-for-5 on the PK. Its something thats just a start, and hopefully going in the right direction. We have to build on that.

Roster update: Douglas Murray and Jim Vandermeer both remain on injured reserve and will not play with their respective broken hands.

Goaltender Antero Niittymaki, though, has returned from his conditioning stint in Worcester, and the Sharks now officially have three goalies on their roster.

Whats the immediate plan?

Antti Niemi tonight, Thomas Greiss backing up, and the Christmas break tomorrow, said McLellan.

Niemi will be making his 13th start in the last 14 games.

Odds and ends: This is the third game between the Sharks and Kings. San Jose won the first at HP Pavilion on Nov. 7, 4-2. They dont meet again until March 20 at Staples Center, and finish the season with a home-and-home against one another. Kings forward Mike Richards returned from an eight-game absence last night with a concussion, and scored one of the Kings two regulation goals Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski each have four-game scoring streaks, with five points apiece over that span. Jonathan Quick is expected to start for Los Angeles. He made 33 saves in shutting out the Sharks on Nov. 28. Dustin Brown has the shootout winner in each of the last two Kings wins.

In push for playoffs, LA Kings acquire goalie Bishop from Tampa Bay

In push for playoffs, LA Kings acquire goalie Bishop from Tampa Bay

The Los Angeles Kings have acquired goaltender Ben Bishop in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Los Angeles sent Peter Budaj, defensive prospect Erik Cernak, a 2017 seventh-round pick and a conditional pick to Tampa Bay for Bishop and a 2017 fifth-round pick.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman announced the trade Sunday night, less than four days before the trade deadline.

Bishop, a pending unrestricted free agent, helped the Lightning reach the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Kings now have Bishop and 2012 and 2014 Cup winner Jonathan Quick, who returned Saturday from a long-term lower-body injury that had sidelined him since October.

The 6-foot-7 Bishop, 30, is 16-12-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

VANCOUVER – It was a successful first game coming out of the bye week for the Sharks, as they won going away against the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1. Here are our three takeaways from the evening in British Columbia…

1 – Slow start, strong finish

The league-wide trend of starting slow coming out of the NHL’s newly instituted bye week was on display in the first period, as the Sharks and Canucks played one of the uglier frames of NHL hockey you’ll ever see. San Jose was on its heels early, surrendering the first six shots of the game and looking particularly confused. They didn’t register a single hit in the period, either, which is hard to do.

The Sharks were lucky that Vancouver wasn’t much better, and that Martin Jones – whose performance we focused on in primary the game recap – was looking sharp and well rested.

The message after the scoreless first period, according to coach Pete DeBoer, was just to “try and get better.” That’s what happened.

“We knew it would be a little messy, and it was,” DeBoer said. “Jonesy thankfully was our best player, and gave us a chance to get our legs under us. I thought as the game wore on we got better and better. It wasn’t a pretty win, by any means.”

Chris Tierney said: “After the first 10 minutes [we] started to feel good and then kind of felt back to normal in the second there. It definitely took a little bit. Joner bailed us out in the beginning a couple times. I thought we started to get going in the second and third.”

2 – Standing up for Karlsson

Melker Karlsson was lucky to return in the third period after he took a heavy hit from Joseph Labate. Karlsson had to be helped to the dressing room after the blow, when his head violently snapped back as Labate ran him into the boards in front of the bench.

Micheal Haley pounced on Labate immediately after the incident, earning a two-minute minor that the team was probably happy to kill off. Labate, to his credit, answered the bell in the third period when he was challenged by and fought Brenden Dillon. The Sharks will face the Canucks three more times this season, including on Thursday, so a response to the hit was particularly necessary even if it was clean.

“That sends a good message to the team that everybody has each other’s back,” Mikkel Boedker said of Haley and Dillon’s efforts. “Those guys are real standup guys, and they’ve done it so many times. Every time they do it, it means something special to all of us.”

DeBoer said: “That’s a huge part of our team and our team identity. We’ve got a group that you’re not going to be able to push to of games, and I think we’ve shown that over the last two years here. You don’t even have to say anything, that’s just automatic.”

3 – Avoiding the mumps

Some eyebrows were raised in the press box midway through the game when the Canucks tweeted that defenseman Luca Sbisa would not return with the stomach flu. That’s one of the early warning signs of the mumps, meaning Sbisa could have exposed some Sharks to the virus, which is making its way through the Vancouver dressing room.

“What are you going to do? We’ve just got to cross our fingers and get outta here and hope that he didn’t rub up against anybody,” DeBoer said.

The Sharks coach said after the game that he thought “most of our guys” have had vaccinations, but “I believe there’s a couple that haven’t.”

After the virus invaded several NHL dressing rooms two seasons ago, the Sharks’ training staff will likely be on the lookout for symptoms when the team reconvenes on Monday. Hopefully, the outbreak will begin and end in Vancouver this time.

“Definitely, you want to make sure that you stay away from all that stuff,” Boedker said.