Monday, March 19, 2012
Kings: Looking to continue streak vs. Sharks
By Dan Arritt
Kings (35-25 -12, 82 points) vs. San Jose Sharks (36-26-10, 82 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. High five – The Kings haven’t won five in a row since early last season, and haven’t been in position to win five straight since October. While that’s an interesting stat for those who pay attention to winning streaks, the Kings just need a victory, whether it’s their first in a row or 10th. They finally received some help when the Ducks beat the Sharks on Monday night, bumping the Kings ahead of San Jose and back into ninth place in the Western Conference standings. It should be a wild night as the six teams battling for the final three playoffs spots go head-to-head.
2. Burning up – Kings center Anze Kopitar seems to have found his scoring touch at just the right time. After producing four goals or less in each of the previous four months, Kopitar has five so far in March, including one in each of the last three games. His recent contributions haven’t been fluky in nature either, but rather pinpoint accurate shots released in stride. Kopitar has scored goals in four straight games just once in his six-year career, back in March 2009. No better time to match that streak than this game.
3. Welcome contribution – The Kings have shown immense patience with Trevor Lewis and Saturday’s victory against the Predators showed why. Lewis, drafted 17th overall in 2006, five spots ahead of two-time All Star center Claude Giroux of the Flyers, had two assists in the 4-2 victory and displayed the combination of skill and grit that can pay dividends this time of year. He helped dig the puck out of the corner in the first period, leading to the first goal against Nashville, then made a great chip-and-chase play before setting up Dustin Penner for the second goal. Lewis has just seven goals in his career, but one was a game-winner against the Sharks last season.
4. Pull the plug – The Kings have been springing some leaks on their penalty kill the last couple games. Bad timing considering they’ll be up against one of the league’s premier power-play units when the Sharks skate onto the ice. After killing 33 straight penalties, the Kings have allowed two power-play goals in the last five man-advantage situations. The Sharks, meanwhile, are No. 4 in the league in power-play efficiency, with five goals in their last five games. Logan Couture is the player to watch on that unit, as he has 10 power-play goals on the season, tied for 11th in the league.
5. Masked man – San Jose goalie Antti Niemi was pulled after allowing four goals on 26 shots against the Ducks, the first time he has allowed more than three goals since a 6-5 overtime loss to Tampa Bay on Feb. 16. Niemi figures to get another shot against the Kings and he has pretty much owned L.A. in his career, building a 7-2-2 record with a 1.69 goals-against average and two shutouts. Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, who joined the Kings this season, know Niemi's tendencies well. When they were with the Flyers in 2009-10, Niemi helped the Chicago Blackhawks to a six-game victory over Philadelphia in the Stanley Cup Finals.