Kings: Hoping to reel in the Sharks

April, 4, 2011
4/04/11
11:48
AM PT
Kings (45-27-6, 96 points) vs. San Jose Sharks (46-23-9, 101) at HP Pavilion, 7 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. No help needed -- The Ducks couldn’t take care of business so it’s up to the Kings to clinch their own playoff berth. If the Ducks had beaten the visiting Dallas Stars in regulation Sunday evening, postseason planning could have begun in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Anaheim. Instead, the Stars kept their own playoff hopes alive with a 4-3 victory. A regulation win in San Jose would also keep Los Angeles in the hunt for a Pacific Division title and a top 3 seeding for the playoffs. Any type of loss and the Sharks win their fourth straight division title, and the Columbus at Dallas game Tuesday night becomes must-see TV for the Kings.

2. Mitchell on the ballot -- Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell has been mentioned a few times here but he continues to be a key member of the team this season, from helping limit opponent’s to the fourth-lowest goals-against average in the NHL, to scoring a career-high five goals, to being a calming presence in the locker room during the ups and downs this season. Mitchell is getting recognized across the league as well, earning a nomination for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is annually awarded to the player who shows “qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

3. Not so green -- On the subject of breakout seasons by Kings defensemen, Matt Greene tied his career high with his second goal Saturday against the Stars and it was a big one, giving the Kings a 2-1 lead with about seven minutes left. Greene didn’t have to think long when asked if it was the biggest goal of his career, he only has seven in 375 career games. Greene is also plus-five for the season. A year ago he finished with a career-best plus-four. Greene has come a long way since he finished minus-22 four years ago in Edmonton.

4. Wayne’s world -- With the loss of Anze Kopitar to a season-ending ankle injury and the current absence of Justin Williams due to a shoulder injury, the Kings miss out on an average of nearly one full point a game. Guys have to step up. Guys like right wing Wayne Simmonds. He was there when it counted Saturday against the Stars, working extra hard for a goal and an assist in the 3-1 victory that put 60% of the Pacific Division in position to clinch a playoff berth Sunday evening. Too bad the Ducks couldn’t step up.

5. Power on, power off -- For the first time since 1984, the Kings went an entire game without a power play. Some fans probably never noticed during the Dallas game, as the Kings aren’t exactly entertaining with the man advantage, coming into the week ranked 19th in the league in power-play efficiently (16.7%). The coaching staff might want to keep a notebook handy for when the Sharks go on the power play. They are third in the league at 23.7% and have at least one power-play goal in 11 of the last 12 games.

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