Smoking hot Sharks skate south to take on L.A.

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Smoking hot Sharks skate south to take on L.A.

March 24, 2011

SHARKS (43-23-8) vs.
LOS ANGELES (41-26-6)

Coverage begins at 7 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The San Jose Sharks can still realistically finish as high as second in the Western Conference, but that's not completely in their control.

Their fate in the Pacific Division certainly is.

Riding a four-game winning streak and with a three-point cushion atop the Pacific, the Sharks play their final eight games against division rivals beginning with Thursday night's stop at Staples Center to face the Los Angeles Kings.

RELATED: NHL conference standings

San Jose (43-23-8) saw its six-point division lead on March 3 shrink to three after a 1-2-2 stretch, but it's starting to hit its stride once again.

Though the division lead remains at three over Phoenix, the Sharks are starting to make up ground on second-place Detroit. San Jose, which trailed the Red Wings by four points and had played one more game through March 14, is now just one point back and has played an equal number of games as Detroit.

But while the Sharks won't get another head-to-head crack at the Central Division leaders, they can pull away from rest of the Pacific - or leave themselves rather vulnerable - over the season's final weeks. Thursday's 6-3 win over Calgary was San Jose's last non-division contest.

REWIND: Marleau, Mitchell each tally twice in win over Flames

The Sharks have totaled 20 goals during their four-game winning streak with four apiece from Patrick Marleau and Torrey Mitchell. Joe Pavelski has totaled 11 points.

"It's great to have everybody contribute," Marleau said. "We'll need more of that coming down the stretch. It's the way we're built and it's the way things should happen. Everybody should have fun scoring goals."

Finishing up against the division should work in the Sharks' favor. They're 9-3-4 versus Pacific foes.

The Kings (41-26-6) haven't faced San Jose since Jan. 26 - when they improved to 2-2-0 in the season series with a shootout victory - but coach Terry Murray has seen enough to know San Jose is clicking when it counts.

RELATED: Spotlight on the L.A. Kings

"They seem to be coming to their time right now, where it is their opportunity to put it all together," Murray told the Kings' official website. "They've got a lot of experience, world-class players, a top line, a good back end, and they're just making the big push and they know how to do it right now."

San Jose isn't the only team coming in off a win against the Flames. Los Angeles defeated Calgary 2-1 in a shootout Monday after opening a five-game homestand with losses to St. Louis and Anaheim.

The Kings are in a three-way tie for fifth place with Chicago and Nashville - one point ahead of Anaheim, two in front of Dallas and three more than Calgary.

"Every point we get, whether it's one point or two points, it helps build a resume to make the playoffs," said goaltender Jonathan Quick, who improved to 8-0 in shootouts. "We're just trying to get two points every time we're out. We got two points and that's all that matters."

The win came at a cost, though. Second-leading scorer Justin Williams left with a dislocated shoulder, an injury that will keep him out at least three weeks.

Swedish forward Oscar Moller was called up Wednesday from Manchester of the AHL.

The loss of Williams, who has 22 goals and 35 assists, could hurt an offense that's already struggling. Los Angeles has totaled 20 goals in 10 games this month, and leading scorer Anze Kopitar has had a hand in more than half of those.

The Sharks have scored with the man advantage in eight straight games (9 for 27), though they've also given up eight power-play goals during that stretch.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants get swept by Mets at home

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants get swept by Mets at home

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The Mets spent the first half of this week in Los Angeles, where they got swept by the Dodgers and outscored 36-11. Their beat writers publicly wrote an end to any thoughts of the postseason. The fan base renewed the calls for manager Terry Collins to be fired. 

That’s where they were. And then they flew to San Francisco. 

AT&T Park continues to be a place where others get healthy, and this weekend it was the Mets. The Giants lost 8-2 on Sunday, getting swept by a similarly disappointing team. They have lost 12 of their last 13 games. 

There’s not much more to be said about it, but I did anyway. Here are five things to know from the day a relief pitcher got an at-bat but it would have been far too cruel to text your friends … 

—- Matt Moore’s line: 4 1/3 innings, seven hits, five earned runs, three walks, five strikeouts. Through 16 starts, he has a 6.04 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. He ranks last among qualified NL starters in ERA. Only Matt Cain (1.73) has a worse WHIP. Good times. 

—- Mets righty Rafael Montero entered with an 0-4 record and 6.49 ERA. He gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings. Good times. 

—- With runners on the corners and two outs in the third inning, Brandon Belt strolled to the plate. He leads the team in homers. Hunter Pence tried to steal second for some reason and he was caught, ending the inning and keeping Belt from batting in a two-run game. Good times. 

—- With two on and no outs in the sixth, the Giants sent the runners to make sure Buster Posey didn’t hit into a double play. Posey popped up softly to first and Joe Panik was doubled off of second. Good times. 

—- One last bit of bad news: Austin Slater was removed from the game with a tight right hip flexor. 

Harvick snaps 20-race winless streak with victory at Sonoma Raceway

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USATSI

Harvick snaps 20-race winless streak with victory at Sonoma Raceway

SONONA — Kevin Harvick returned to victory lane for the first time this season with a dominating run Sunday on the road course at Sonoma Raceway.

The former NASCAR champion came to Sonoma winless in 20 races since Kansas last fall and has been overshadowed in this season of NASCAR's young new superstars. But at a track where experience and ability can separate the field, it was Harvick and a bunch of veterans who led the way.

It was the first win on the winding wine country road course in 17 tries for the Bakersfield, California, driver. Sonoma was one of just four active tracks where Harvick had never before scored a Cup victory.

Harvick was on cruise control and conserving fuel in this win, which ended under caution after Kasey Kahne had a hard accident on the final lap.

Either way, Harvick had a cozy 9-second lead over Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer before the caution.

Bowyer, now the driver for the entry Tony Stewart used for his final NASCAR victory last year at the track, was second and Brad Keselowski third as Ford cars went 1-2-3.