Kings (21-12-1) vs. San Jose Sharks (19-11-5) at HP Pavilion, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Two teams on a roll -- Expect another playoff-type atmosphere when these teams meet for the second time this season. Both clubs are playing some of their best hockey of the season and the winner will take over sole possession of fourth place in the Western Conference. The Kings have won three straight after Sunday night’s 4-1 whitewash against the Anaheim Ducks and are 8-2-1 in December. The Sharks are riding a four-game winning streak, their longest of the season, and are 8-3-1 for the month.
2. This time it’s Quick -- The last time the Kings traveled to San Jose they were riding a six-game winning streak and the Sharks stopped them in their tracks with a 6-3 victory. That marked the beginning of a stretch in which Los Angeles lost seven of eight. The difference this time is the Kings will have their No. 1 goalkeeper, Jonathan Quick, minding the net. Quick has allowed just three goals in two games at HP Pavilion and stopped 45 shots in his last game there, a 6-2 victory in January.
3. The power is on -- The Kings seemed to have figured out their early season power play woes, scoring at least one man-advantage goal in eight of their last nine games. They haven’t experienced such a power surge since mid-February to early March 2009, when they scored at least one power play goal in 12 of 13 games. The key has been simple, according to coach Terry Murray: shoot the puck at the net and good things will happen. That’s exactly how they scored against the Ducks. Drew Doughty sent a laser at goalkeeper Jonas Hiller and Dustin Brown was there to tap in the rebound.
4. The return of Sturm -- Marco Sturm spent 7-plus seasons in San Jose before he was dealt five years ago to the Boston Bruins in a blockbuster trade that sent Joe Thornton to the Sharks. Sturm is now a member of the Kings, while Thornton is still leading the way in San Jose. Sturm, who recorded his first point in a Los Angeles uniform Sunday night, has only played three career games against the team that drafted him 21st overall in 1996, totaling three assists. It should be interesting how fans greet him in the Shark Tank.
5. Logan’s run -- The Kings got a good look at Edmonton rookie Taylor Hall on Thursday night. Against the Sharks, they’ll face another of the league’s top newcomers in 21-year-old center Logan Couture, who leads the Sharks with 18 goals. That’s three more than the Kings’ leading goal scorer, Anze Kopitar. Couture, a former minor league teammate of Doughty, is also second on the team with a plus-9 rating.