Sharks-Kings: What to watch for


Sharks-Kings: What to watch for

LOS ANGELES There are just 10 games remaining in the regular season, and one thing is certain if the Sharks play the way they did against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday, there are just 10 games left in their season, period.

Were going to have our hands full with L.A. waiting for us, said Ryane Clowe after the 5-3 loss to the Ducks on Monday night. Were going to have to play a hell of a lot better than we did tonight, thats for sure.

As much as a step back the loss to Anaheim was, the Sharks could still end up back in the top eight by the time the night is through. Other games to keep an eye on include Phoenix in Dallas, and Colorado hosting Calgary. The Sharks will hope first and foremost that both of those games end in regulation as all four of those teams are still in the hunt for what looks to be three open positions.

Three left with Los Angeles: Of the Sharks 10 remaining games, three are against the Kings. After tonights matchup, the teams conclude the regular season with a home-and-home against one another.

San Jose is 2-1 against LA, including a shootout win at HP Pavilion on Dec. 23 in the most recent encounter.

In all, the Sharks have eight games left in their division. San Jose is 7-8-1 in divisional play this season, including a 3-0-1 mark against Dallas, whom they face twice more.

Los Angeles is looking for its fifth straight win, and has played noticeably better since acquiring forward Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets as part of a trade for defenseman Jack Johnson. Their four wins have come against Chicago in a shootout, and Detroit, Anaheim and Nashville in regulation.

The Sharks had a 3-0-1 streak snapped by Anaheim on Monday night.

Roster report: The Sharks are still without forward Michal Handzus (undisclosed), TJ Galiardi (upper body) and Tommy Wingels (upper body), all of whom did not make the trip to Los Angeles. The Kings are missing Simon Gagne and Kevin Westgarth.

Antti Niemi, who was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals to the Ducks, will likely make to make his 12th straight start. In 11 career appearances against LA in the regular season, Niemi is 7-2-2 with a 1.69 goals-against average and .941 save percentage.

The Kings will go with Vezina Trophy candidate Jonathan Quick, who is fourth in the league in GAA (2.00) and sixth in SP (.928). Hes a pedestrian 7-4-2 with a 2.36 GAA and .920 SP against the Sharks in the regular season.

Kings expect fired up Sharks: The Kings are well aware that the Sharks will be looking to quickly put Mondays poor effort behind them. This morning at Staples Center, Mike Richards told Rich Hammond:
I think were excited. You can feel it in here, that were excited for the game tonight. Im sure theyre going to be ready for it too. We have to be ready for the way theyre going to come out, because obviously they lost a big game last night, but as long as were ready to play, and expect the best out of ourselves, we should be fine.

Los Angeles has scored the first goal of the game nine times in their last 11 games, so the start will obviously be important.

Odds and ends: The Sharks are just 4-10-4 in their last 18 road games, with three of those wins coming against non-playoff opponents. San Jose leads the league with 34.4 shots per game. The Kings have allowed just 112 five-on-five goals, the fourth fewest in the league. San Jose has allowed the fifth fewest (121). The Sharks and Kings have each lost 13 times by one goal in regulation, tied for the most in the NHL with the Blue Jackets. The Kings are 8-3-0 in their last 11 games, outscoring the opposition 37-23.

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines


Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

The San Jose Sharks were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday night, but it sure didn't feel like it.

You’d be forgiven, albeit mistaken, if you didn't think the loss was their first goose egg of the season. San Jose’s been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league this year, and has scored two or fewer goals in all but two of their six games in November.

The Sharks controlled play, but their raw possession numbers were misleading: Through the first two periods, San Jose was outshot 23-18, and poured it on in the third looking for the game-tying goal.

In order to break out of his team’s extended slump, head coach Peter DeBoer appeared to throw his lines in the proverbial blender. The changes weren't very significant, though, as DeBoer worked mostly around the edges.

Joe Thornton remained with Joe Pavelski, while Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier rotated in on their wing. Joonas Donskoi swapped in with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, and on and on.

The core pair of each line remained intact, while DeBoer swapped complimentary wingers. Subtle changes, unsurprisingly, didn't lead to drastically different results.

He’s been amenable to bigger changes at times, briefly breaking up longtime linemates Thornton and Pavelski last Sunday against Los Angeles. The bottom six, especially the fourth line, has mostly been a revolving door.

That's a start, but far from enough. 

As long as the Sharks struggle to score, similarly significant changes are in order.

DeBoer shouldn't want to sacrifice the team’s defensive dominance, or its strong possession game. But, the Sharks haven't scored enough through 17 games to justify using the same forward combinations. 

In Thornton and Pavelski’s case, those struggles date back to last season. For just about everyone else, the sample size is getting increasingly more significant as the season approaches the quarter pole.

The Sharks bench boss expressed a willingness to mix up his power play units earlier this week, and needs to do the same at even strength. It's time to try Pavelski on Couture's wing, Meier on Thornton's, or any number of permutations.

Tweaking around the edges hasn't made much of a difference, so far more comprehensive adjustments are not only welcome, but necessary. Of course, DeBoer may not find the perfect lineup solutions.

At this point, though, it's worth a shot. It's hard to imagine the Sharks scoring any less than they have so far this season, and the Sharks need to explore if any line changes can provide a remedy.

Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks


Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks


SAN JOSE — Roberto Luongo made 35 saves for his 74th career shutout and the Florida Panthers blanked the San Jose Sharks 2-0 Thursday night on goals by Colton Sceviour and Nick Bjugstad.

Florida coach Bob Boughner won in his return to San Jose. He served as an assistant coach for the Sharks the last two years.

Luongo earned his first shutout of the season and first in 32 games against San Jose.

Martin Jones was nearly as good for the Sharks. He stopped 26 shots, but that wasn't enough to keep the Panthers from winning for the seventh time in their last eight trips to San Jose.

Sharks defenseman Tim Heed had a goal disallowed on a coach's challenge a little less than five minutes into the second period. Replays showed he came into contact with the puck just behind the blue line, making the play offside.

San Jose had another goal overturned after a replay review. Brent Burns took a hard shot that Luongo nearly caught but couldn't handle and it bounced along his pads. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was one of three Sharks trying to poke at the puck and he used his stick to push both the puck and Luongo's pad into the net.

Sceviour scored a minute into the second after digging out the puck along the boards behind the net. He skated around the cage and poked a shot that hit Jones' pads. He took a second shot that got over the goalie's pads and went in.

Sceviour has four points in six games since returning from injury. He had two points in his first six games this season.

The Panthers, who have won three of four, added an insurance goal with less than eight minutes remaining. Radim Vrbata intercepted a pass in the Sharks zone and played it to Jamie McGinn, who got Jones to commit before dishing to Bjugstad for the score.

NOTES: Panthers C Michael Haley received a warm ovation from Sharks fans. He played in San Jose the last couple of years. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed his 15th game with a lower-body injury, though he has been skating pain-free for the past two weeks. ... Florida center Vincent Trocheck has 12 points in his last 10 games. ... The Sharks have not scored on their past 15 power plays.


Panthers: At the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Sharks: Host the Boston Bruins on Saturday.