Sharks-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 26, 2013
Saturday night's regular-season finale at Staples Center may not be the final meeting between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks depending on certain postseason scenarios. San Jose, winner of four of the last five meetings, may not be opposed to that. Each team's Western Conference playoff fate is contingent upon how St. Louis fares in its final game with NHL-best Chicago earlier in the evening, as both the Sharks (25-15-7) and Kings (26-16-5) are one point back of the Blues for the fourth seed and accompanying home-ice advantage in the first round. If St. Louis wins, the winner of this contest would be the No. 5 seed and face the Blues. Things get a little trickier from there. A Kings victory and any St. Louis loss would give them home-ice advantage in a first-round series with the Blues. A Sharks win in regulation and St. Louis loss in regulation would give San Jose the home-ice edge versus the Blues. The only scenario in which the Sharks and Kings can face off in the first round is if San Jose beats Los Angeles in overtime or a shootout and St. Louis loses in regulation, giving the Sharks the No. 4 seed. San Jose won the last meeting 3-2 in a shootout April 16, as Brent Burns had a goal and an assist. Dustin Brown scored for the Kings in that contest, but he won't be around for this matchup as he finishes serving a two-game suspension for elbowing Minnesota's Jason Pominville in Tuesday's loss. Los Angeles lost 3-1 to the Red Wings the following night. ''You don't replace Brown in your lineup,'' coach Darryl Sutter said. ''I look at it another way. He's got two games off to get some rest for the playoffs.'' The defending Stanley Cup champions entered last postseason as an underdog eighth seed, while this season's team comes in with greater outside expectations. "Last year we were hanging on for the eighth spot, and (this season) we clinched (a playoff spot) two or three games ago," Sutter said. "It's a different team. We'll see what happens the next few days." San Jose is heading to its ninth straight postseason after beating Dallas 3-2 on Tuesday, but they fell 2-1 on Wednesday at Phoenix for its second defeat in three games. "(Tuesday) was an emotional game, and you're always concerned about guys getting off to a good start,'' coach Todd McLellan said. ''It took a little while for us to get our legs going (Wednesday) and decide to play the way we needed to play." Burns scored for the Sharks, who are just 8-13-2 on the road. "In this league, you can't just play 40 to 45 minutes and win," McLellan said. "(Wednesday) was a good example." Thomas Greiss made 30 saves in his first start since March 6, though McLellan may opt to go back to Antti Niemi for the finale. Niemi is 5-2-0 with a 1.83 goals-against average over his last seven starts, though he's posted a 3.74 GAA in his last six versus the Kings. Jonathan Quick has lost two shootouts, one in overtime and been pulled in another while posting a 3.51 GAA in his last four starts against San Jose.
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