The Kings return to Staples Center after playing their last nine games on the road. They haven’t played a home game since Dec. 10 when they beat the Ottawa Senators 4-1. Since that game, Los Angeles has gone 3-4-2 and fallen out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The Sharks, who currently lead the Pacific Division, are 8-2-0 in their last ten games and will try to extend their current win streak to five games.
A pair of goals from Patrick Marleau and Justin Braun coupled with a 21-save shutout from Aaron Dell propelled the Sharks to a 2-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night to open their back-to-back to end the year. The Kings will try to force the Sharks into a 1-1 split.
This is the third meeting between the two California rivals and San Jose will look to improve to 3-0 on the season against their opponents from the south. Nine points currently separate the two teams so a regulation win and a four-point swing could make a sizable gap even bigger for the Sharks or breathe a little life into the Kings’ playoff hopes.
If the Kings wish to end 2016 on a high note they are going to need a better effort from their captain, Anze Kopitar. The 29-year-old has one goal in his last 25 games, just two points in his last 11 and although his overall game is still one to admire, he has to figure out a way to get on the scoresheet on a more consistent basis.
The Kings will also be without Tyler Toffoli who was placed on the injured reserve list earlier this week. Head coach Darryl Sutter was asked if the Kings missed the young star and he said, via LA Kings Insider, “For sure we are. I mean, the top end of our lineup, there’s not a lot of goals there, and Kopi’s having a really hard time finishing, so I don’t think the line had a whole lot tonight.”
San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings
Staples Center – 7:30 p.m. PST
Broadcast channels – FS-W, CSN-CA
2016-17 Season Series: Oct. 12 – San Jose 2 – Los Angeles 1
Nov. 30 San Jose 4 – Los Angeles 1
Los Angeles Kings – 17-15-4 – 38 Points
Hot Players: Jeff Carter
Key Injuries: Tyler Toffoli
San Jose Sharks – 23-12-1 – 47 Points
Away Record: 10-8-1
Hot Players: Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns
Key Injuries: Tomas Hertl and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Burns – Martin
Schlemko – Braun
Dillon – DeMelo
1)The Kings’ struggles offensively are well documented. Only Jeff Carter, who leads the team with 19 goals, has more than eight goals and only Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Alec Martinez have more than five. Over the course of their last seven games, Los Angeles has only scored 11 goals for an average of 1.57 goals per game.
2)Games against the Pacific Division have been tough on the Kings. Los Angeles has a record of 5-5-0 when paired up with teams in their division. On the other side of things, the Sharks have pulled together a record of 7-4-1 against the Pacific Division. Success against opponents in your division is a recipe for success which might spell out why San Jose sits atop the division and Los Angeles is on the outside looking in on the playoff picture.
3)Martin Jones will be between the pipes for San Jose. Jones has fared well against his former team and sports a 5-1-1 record and 2.14 goals against average when playing against Los Angeles. He is also 10-4-0 at home this season.
4)In his last 10 games Brent Burns has done it all for the Sharks. He has scored three goals and notched 11 points over that span. The defenseman leads San Jose in goals and points with 14 and 34 respectively. Burns will be the key to either the Sharks’ success or downfall.
5)The Kings are 62-62-19 all-time against San Jose, which includes a home record of 38-26-7 against their in-state rivals.