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.

Iguodala making loud free agency case to Warriors in Durant's absence

Iguodala making loud free agency case to Warriors in Durant's absence

OAKLAND -- It was with impeccable timing, for the Warriors and for Andre Iguodala, that he has spent recent weeks summoning all the best parts of his game.

He has been a disruptive force on defense, as usual, but at a time when the Warriors needed something extra at both ends of the court, he is providing an abundance of offensive electricity.

Iguodala came through once more on Sunday as the Warriors suffocated Memphis in the fourth quarter to take a 106-94 win at Oracle Arena. Though the team’s Sixth Man again scored at an efficient clip -- 20 points on eight shot attempts -- his ability to energize teammates from Stephen Curry to Draymond Green to Klay Thompson and beyond is no less significant.

“We feed off his energy when we see him get a rebound or get a steal, push up the court, make a crazy inside-out dribble and finish at the rim, knock down threes or play-make for other guys,” Curry said. “It’s fun to watch.”

Iguodala’s rise has coincided with the loss of Kevin Durant, the team’s leading scorer and someone who plays the same position. With Durant out, Iguodala has taken on additional playing time, which can be risky for someone in his 13th season.

“He’s been fantastic,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He looks incredibly athletic, bouncy and fresh. He’s a pro. The guy just knows how to take care of his body. He’s done a great job of stepping up in KD’s absence and recognizing what we need from him.”

The Warriors have played 13 games since Durant went down with a knee injury, and Iguodala has played in 11 of them, shooting 44 percent from deep and 61.8 percent overall. The man who shot 62.3 percent from the line in his first three seasons as a Warrior is at 70.1 percent this season. Leadership also is part of the package.

“I try to read (what’s needed) when I get into the game,” Iguodala said. “Try to bring that energy. And, more than anything, lead by example. Not say too much. Just show it.”

When Iguodala is sprinting up and down the court, rising and dunking on one end, stripping balls away on the other, the Warriors are appreciably better team. If the Curry-Durant-Green-Thompson foursome is the engine, Iguodala is the turbo boost.

“We’re a completely different team when he’s as aggressive as he’s been of late,” Green said. “When he’s moving the way he’s been moving -- he’s beating everybody down the floor -- it makes us a completely different team. “

Igoudala’s minutes have spiked, from 23 per game in November, to 26 in December, to 27 in January and February, to almost 29 in March.

“I don’t want to run his minutes up too much,” Kerr said. “But if he has to play a couple extra minutes while KD is out, then that’s fine.”

It’s fine with Iguodala and it’s paying off for the Warriors.

Iguodala hopes it pays off, literally, when he becomes a free agent in July.

Though free agents entering their 14th season don’t often command big money, he is making a very impressive audition for the Warriors or any team that might be interested in his services.

Iguodala has made it clear he’d prefer to stay in the Bay Area, and at this rate the Warriors may have to find the necessary coins to bring him back.

Fight finally pays off for Kings: 'Like we won Game 1 of the playoffs'

Fight finally pays off for Kings: 'Like we won Game 1 of the playoffs'

The Sacramento Kings are young and lack experience. They have plenty of holes in their roster and they even sat three veterans when they rolled into the Staples Center for a 12:30 start on Sunday afternoon. 

Sacramento also has talent and they play hard. The Clippers just learned the hard way what plenty of other teams already knew - there is no quit in this team.

From start to finish, the Kings played a gritty style of defense. They closed out strong on the Clippers shooters and did their best to quash the alley-oop that Chris Paul is so famous for. Los Angeles coasted through the game assuming that they won before the opening tip. And then Sacramento flipped the table late, shutting the Clippers down in the fourth while riding a 22-3 run to finish the game with a 98-97 come from behind victory.

“I thought the whole game, the guys didn’t lose effort and they deserve it,” veteran point guard Darren Collison told media following the game. “Look at our last couple of weeks, even though the results haven’t been what we want it to be, so many guys that kept fighting, they were able to deserve this win.”

Trailing by 18 at the 5:16 mark of the fourth quarter, this game looked like so many others that we have seen over the last month. Sacramento had fought to stay in the contest, but in the end, the experience of their opponent wins out. But the Kings kept fighting.

“They didn’t lose hope, not one bit,” Collison said. “They kept pulling and pulling and pulling. Eventually they got some big threes, some big shots.”

So many contributed to the victory, but at the 2:19 mark, rookie Buddy Hield knocked down a 3-pointer to draw the Kings within six. Moments later he stole the inbounds pass and dropped in a second straight three in a nine second stretch.

“You just have to stay confident, trust yourself and trust what got you here,” Buddy Hield said.

Through three quarters, Hield had shot just 1-of-7 from the field and looked overwhelmed by the Clippers star players. He came alive in the fourth, hitting 3-of-3 from behind the arc to finish the quarter with 11 points and five rebounds. Hield scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds on the night, showing fans that he is ready to compete in crunch time.

“We kept playing and made some plays and the little things matter,” coach Dave Joerger said. “I’m really proud, it’s like we won Game 1 of the playoffs.”

With their teammates rallying on the court, the Kings bench looked like a cheerleader troup. All they needed was some pom-poms and a lot of eye liner.

Regardless of the record, Sacramento has remained a close knit group. Youth and veterans have meshed well as they forge towards another lottery selection. 

“I’ve been on a lot of teams, some winning teams and the chemistry is not as good as this team,” Collison added. “People don’t understand how hard it is to be in our shoes and come to work every single day with the circumstances that we have dealt with. But to be together still and fun, it shows a lot about this team. I’m real happy to be a part of this team. We’re not winning games, but the way we’re going about our business - we’re losing games together, we’re winning games together.”

Collison went off against his former team, scoring 19 points and handing out four assists in 28 minutes of action. Anthony Tolliver hit 5-of-6 from 3-point range to finish with 15 points and rookie Georgios Papagiannis but up 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and blocked two shots.

With the win, the Kings snapped their four-game losing streak and improve to 28-45 on the season. They play again on Monday when the Memphis Grizzlies drop by the Golden 1 Center on the second night of a road-and-home back-to-back.