San Jose Sharks (25-19-5) vs. Kings (26-22-1) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Must win: This is the last game before the All-Star break and both sides would definitely like to get a win before they go on hiatus. The Kings have won two straight for the first time in a month and San Jose has won four straight, its longest winning streak of the season. Both sides are just outside the top eight in the Western Conference standings, so the importance of the game is magnified.
2. Gimme a D: The Kings have tightened up their defense in a big way, owning a 1.83 goals-against average in the last six games. They’ve been good against the Sharks lately too, allowing one goal in the last two games combined. One of the keys to their recent success is allowing low shot totals for their opponents. Before giving up 34 shots Monday against the Bruins, they had limited the opposition to under 30 shots in eight straight games.
3. Quick and more Quick: Jonathan Quick is feeling it lately and the Kings will stick with their No. 1 goalie. He shut out the Sharks last month and allowed just one goal in their most recent meeting on New Year’s Day. He’s also coming off a shutout in his last start against the Bruins, his fifth of the season, which moved him into a tie for fourth on the all-time franchise list. Quick is also fourth in franchise history with 13 career shutouts.
4. Greene is gold: Kings defenseman Matt Greene continues to play some of his best hockey of the season. The team’s alternate captain is a plus-five in his last six games with two assists, 21 hits and 16 blocked shots. As one of the vocal leaders on the team, Greene was also a calming influence in the locker room during the team’s recent slide that included 10 losses in 12 games.
5. Clowe is a go: San Jose left wing Ryane Clowe is expected to return from an ankle injury that cost him four games. Clowe, who is third on the team with 37 points, injured himself when he clipped skates with Dustin Penner of Edmonton. Clowe has nine points in 25 career games against Los Angeles. He scored a goal in a 6-3 win against the Kings on Nov. 15.