Kings-Sharks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 16, 2013
It's been four seasons since the Los Angeles Kings lost four straight road games. Now the Stanley Cup champions have to face a team that owns the fewest regulation home losses that is in position to overtake them in the standings. Playoff positioning is at stake Tuesday night between these Pacific Division rivals at the HP Pavilion, where the San Jose Sharks have won five straight over the Kings. Los Angeles (24-14-4) hasn't lost four in a row on the road since a five-game slide Feb. 25-March 13, 2009. These teams are vying for home-ice advantage in the first round of the postseason. The Kings are in fourth in the Western Conference with 52 points while the Sharks (22-13-7) are fifth with 51. Starting a potential series between these teams in San Jose could be a problem for the Stanley Cup champions, although coach Darryl Sutter did not agree with the notion that the Sharks are traditionally tough at home. "Not traditionally," he told the Kings' official website. "This year they are. I think they have one regulation loss. So I don't know if that's a tradition. That's this year, so that's what it's based on. Teams change. Personnel changes. Half their team changes." There's no debating that this venue has traditionally been tough for the Kings. The Sharks are 23-6-2 in the last 31 home matchups. San Jose is starting a four-game homestand after going 2-2-0 on a trip capped by Monday's 4-0 victory at Phoenix. Antti Niemi stopped 35 shots for his fourth shutout of the season. "A 4-0 win in a building we haven't had a lot of success in lately, it was a good way to end it,'' coach Todd McLellan said. Niemi is 13-1-4 with a 1.75 goals-against average at home this season. He's also 4-1-0 with a 2.27 GAA in six starts at HP Pavilion against the Kings. That includes a 4-3 victory March 14 in which Logan Couture had two goals and an assist. The Kings evened the season series two days later with a 5-2 home victory behind two goals from Kyle Clifford. Couture scored his 17th goal Monday to tie Patrick Marleau for the team lead. He's eagerly anticipating his club's next game. "We have a big game against LA ... and we're looking forward to that one, so it's good to get this one,'' Couture said. Marleau, meanwhile, has one goal in his last 10 games, although he has 14 points in his last 10 versus the Kings. Los Angeles has not played since Saturday's 2-1 victory over Anaheim. Drew Doughty, who has no points in his last five meetings with San Jose, had a goal and an assist. These teams also meet at Staples Center to close the season April 27. "Every game has a different feel, regardless of the time of the year," Kings winger Justin Williams said. "But points are at a premium now, we're certainly pushing for the best playoff position we can get." Kings center Mike Richards has seven points during a six-game run.
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