Posted March 13, 2013 on AP on Fox
It's been over a month since the Los Angeles Kings have dropped consecutive games. The San Jose Sharks' slide began well over a month ago. These Pacific Division rivals, however, are separated by only two points in the crowded Western Conference standings heading into Thursday night's opener of a home-and-home set in San Jose. The Kings (14-9-2) and Sharks (11-8-6) have yet to meet this season, with a rematch set for Saturday at Staples Center. Los Angeles is 11-4-0 since its last set of back-to-back defeats Feb. 7-10. San Jose enters on an 0-2-2 slide with a 4-8-6 mark since its seven-game win streak to start the season. Anaheim has an 11-point lead in the Pacific Division, with the division's other four teams separated by four points. Los Angeles has 30 points and San Jose 28. "I think it's important for us to realize that we got off to a rough start and we've been playing better hockey as of late,'' Kings winger Dustin Brown said, "but if you look at the standings, any night you're not getting points, you're falling. That's just the nature of the Western Conference and the shortened season.'' The Sharks seemingly do not have much momentum after Tuesday's 4-2 loss in St. Louis, but they believe they are poised for a turnaround after outshooting the Blues 41-21. "I thought it was one of our most complete games of the year," said forward Joe Thornton, who notched his 20th assist. "If we continue to play like that we're going to win a lot of games." San Jose went 4-2-0 against Los Angeles last season, with three of the wins going past regulation. Patrick Marleau registered a team-best seven points and Dan Boyle a team-high four goals in the season series for San Jose, which has won four straight home matchups. Anze Kopitar led the Kings with nine points while Mike Richards had a team-high four goals. Jeff Carter only played in one of those meetings since the Kings acquired him last Feb. 23. Carter leads the West with 17 goals, although he has failed to score in his last two games. Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter felt fatigue was the key factor in Tuesday's 5-2 loss at Phoenix one night after a 3-1 home victory over Calgary. "We were tired, they were fresh," Sutter said. "It's not too hard to figure out." Brown and Richards both scored on the power play against the Coyotes, but that came after the Kings fell behind 4-0. "We've just got to bounce back, go into San Jose, regroup, and get two points there," defenseman Keaton Ellerby told the Kings' official website. Jonathan Quick, who has started the Kings' last four games, went 0-1-2 with a 2.56 goals-against average last season at the HP Pavilion. San Jose No. 1 goalie Antti Niemi is 3-1-0 with a 2.11 GAA in five career regular-season home starts with the Sharks against the Kings. The Sharks' Brent Burns will play his first home game since Feb. 9, returning Tuesday after a seven-game absence due to a lower-body injury. Coach Todd McLellan has moved the defenseman to forward.
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