Sharks

Havlat will travel on Sharks' road trip

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Havlat will travel on Sharks' road trip

SAN JOSE Marty Havlat is looking forward to rejoining his team for its weeklong road trip that begins on Thursday in Dallas.

That doesnt necessarily mean hes going to play in any of the four games against the Stars, Coyotes, Oilers or Flames, but the winger is getting stronger and stronger as he nears a return from his partially torn right hamstring suffered in December.

Its been awhile since Ive been on a trip, and it will be nice to be around the team a little bit and nice to just have a change of scenery a little bit, Havlat said. Its been too much San Jose for me right now.

The shifty winger is still trying to build strength in his leg, and cannot stop and start as hed like to just yet an aspect to his game that is of utmost importance.

The stops and starts are still not the way I want them to be. It was better today, but its not perfect yet, he said.

Havlat skated on the teams fifth line, if you will, in an orange practice jersey with Brad Winchester and Benn Ferriero. He began practicing with the team in the middle of last week.

Today was much better than last week. Its progressing and getting better every day.

The Sharks are notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to injury rehab and return dates, but Todd McLellan admitted that Havlat is getting closer after Mondays long skate.

Hell play when he and the trainers decide that hes healthy to play, and then hes got some work to do in practice. Just him being part of it is a step in the right direction, McLellan said.

He handled himself well, and most of the concepts are familiar to him now, so he should be handling himself appropriately.

Odds and ends: Jim Vandermeer skated as a defenseman in practice, paired with Jason Demers. Vandermeer has been playing as a forward lately. The line combinations featured Joe Thornton with Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski; Logan Couture between Ryane Clowe and Tommy Wingels; Dominic Moore with Torrey Mitchell and Daniel Winnik; and Michal Handzus between TJ Galiardi and Andrew Desjardins.

Sharks seal season series with win over Kings

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AP

Sharks seal season series with win over Kings

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- There's nothing like a visit with the Los Angeles Kings to get Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks on top of their game.

Chris Tierney had a goal and an assist, and Jones made 35 saves in the Sharks' third straight victory over their longtime rivals, 4-1 Monday.

Barclay Goodrow and Mikkel Boedker ended lengthy goal droughts for the Sharks, who built a three-goal lead during another strong game by Jones against his former Los Angeles teammates.

The goalie who won a Stanley Cup ring as Jonathan Quick's backup followed up his 2-0 win over the Kings at the Shark Tank on Dec. 23 with another near-shutout of Los Angeles. Jones improved to 9-3-2 in 14 career appearances against his former organization, but he spread the praise for a comprehensive win throughout the Sharks' lineup.

"It's easy to prepare for games against these guys, or any division game," Jones said. "We know what the standings are like, and what these games mean. We play well as a team (against the Kings). When we play in the offensive zone that much, it makes everybody's job easier."

Dylan DeMelo returned from a three-game injury absence with two assists for his second career multipoint game for the Sharks, who were in control from the opening faceoff of a rare matinee at Staples Center. Joonas Donskoi also had two assists, and Joe Thornton added an empty-net goal.

"You battle a bit more when you're playing a rival and a division team that's ahead of you in the standings," Tierney said. "That's what this team is built for, is playing those tight games where you try to lock it down."

Trevor Lewis ended Jones' shutout bid with 7:18 to play, but the Kings lost their fourth straight to match their longest skid of the season. Los Angeles has been outscored 8-3 in losses to its two California rivals since returning from the bye week last Saturday.

"We had some guys that were really off tonight," Los Angeles coach John Stevens said. "I don't know if the break affected us that way or not, but certainly something did. We've got to regroup here. I feel like we got some good efforts out of our key veteran guys, but they cannot do it on their own."

Darcy Kuemper stopped 29 shots in his first start since Dec. 16 for the Kings, who have slumped into third place after leading the Pacific Division for a good chunk of the season. With a 5-7-3 record in division play, LA is just one point ahead of the Sharks, who have two games in hand.

"It's tough. We were ahead of the pack for a while there, and now we're right in the thick of things," Lewis said. "We've just got to figure it out in a hurry here."

The Sharks went ahead just 4:38 in when the Kings lapsed on defense, allowing Donskoi to make a pass across the crease to an unchecked Tierney for his 11th goal into an open net.

Goodrow got his third goal of the season midway through the second period, converting DeMelo's rebound in the slot. The goal was his first since Dec. 7.

San Jose had an extra step on the Kings throughout the first two periods and nearly added to its lead in the closing seconds, but Los Angeles defenseman Christian Folinstopped a shot with his skate on the goal line.

Boedker added his first goal since Nov. 24 in the third period, ending a 12-game drought.

Lewis got help from Marian Gaborik in scoring his 11th goal. The grinding forward scored a career-high 12 goals last season while playing in all 82 games.

NOTES: Kuemper lost in regulation for the first time in his debut season with the Kings. He is 5-1-3. ... Quick got the day off for the Kings after nine consecutive starts. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner gave up three goals in LA's loss to Anaheim last Saturday. ... Sharks D Tim Heed was scratched in DeMelo's place.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night.

Kings: Host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday in just their third game in 12 days.

Sharks can make serious standings push beginning with MLK matinee vs Kings

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USATSI

Sharks can make serious standings push beginning with MLK matinee vs Kings

The Sharks are in the midst of one of their toughest stretches of the season. Dating back to Saturday, they’ll play eight games in 13 nights ahead of the All-Star break.

As it stands right now, six of those eight games are against teams within two points of a playoff spot. San Jose will end up playing Arizona, the only team that isn’t, twice after they complete a back-to-back in the desert on Tuesday.

The first half of that begins with a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day matinee against the Los Angeles Kings, whom the Sharks have a real opportunity to finally catch in the standings over the next two weeks.

San Jose currently has two games in hand on their in-state rivals, but trails them by three points for the Pacific Division’s final playoff spot. By the break, they will only have one game in hand on the Kings, and zero by Feb. 2.

Until then, the Sharks have some control their own destiny, beginning with Monday’s matchup. If they win on Monday, as well as their two games in hand, they can leapfrog the Kings in the standings, and could even surpass the red-hot Flames to grab hold of home ice advantage in the first round.

After the break, however, any standings movement will be largely out of San Jose’s hands. The scheduling quirks and bye weeks from the first half of the season will have evened out, and if the Sharks can’t catch the Kings or Flames before the break, they’d need them to struggle in order to do so after.

This stretch of eight-in-13, then, is where the rubber hits the proverbial road. Or, if you’d prefer, where the steel hits the proverbial ice.

Of course, that also means the Sharks will have to improve their play quickly. Since Dec. 14, San Jose is just 6-3-3, and has only scored 1.96 goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five play over that span, according to Natural Stat Trick.

That’s the sixth-lowest rate in the league since, but what’s made matters worse for the normally low-scoring Sharks is that they’ve allowed 2.79 five-on-five goals per 60 minutes as well, the seventh-most since Dec. 14.

The power play, converting at a 30.2 percent clip, has been the league’s second-best since mid-December and is largely keeping the Sharks afloat, even as their even strength game and penalty kill (77.1 percent since Dec. 14, 20th in the NHL).

In other words, the Sharks are in desperate need of a turnaround. Fortunately for San Jose, there’s no better time than the present.