An important home-and-home series between a pair of playoff hopefuls will get underway tonight in Los Angeles, as the Kings host the rival San Jose Sharks at the Staples Center.
Los Angeles enters tonight locked in a tie with Phoenix for first place in the Pacific Division, but the Sharks are lurking just one point behind those teams. All three clubs have two games left in the regular season and Phoenix is off tonight ahead of Friday's road test against the St. Louis Blues.
Although they could wind up being the third seed in the West if they win the division, the Kings have yet to clinch a playoff spot, but can do so with a point tonight. San Jose needs a victory this evening to wrap up a postseason berth.
The Sharks and Kings, who close their regular season against each other Saturday night in San Jose, have split four meetings this season. The home team has won all four encounters in the season series and the Kings have claimed the last four meetings in LA.
Los Angeles is 22-14-4 as the host this year, while San Jose is just 16-17-7 on the road.
San Jose is coming off an important home-and-home sweep of the Dallas Stars, who are now trailing the Sharks by three points after losing both tests in regulation. The Sharks posted a 3-0 win in Saturday's home portion and then notched a 5-2 decision Tuesday in Dallas.
Logan Couture scored the game-winning goal late in the second period to lift the Sharks to the road win at American Airlines Center. It was San Jose's fifth win in seven games.
Daniel Winnik, T.J. Galiardi, Ryane Clowe and Joe Thornton also scored for the Sharks, while Antti Niemi posted 29 saves in the victory.
"The pace was up-and-down," Couture said. "It was fun to play. ... It was a big win."
Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray has sat out the last three games with a lower-body injury and is questionable for tonight.
The Kings enter tonight having won three of their last four games (3-0-1) and should be well-rested for this evening's Pacific Division showdown. LA last played on Monday, when Jonathan Quick made 19 saves to record his 10th shutout of the season in a 2-0 victory over the visiting Edmonton Oilers.
Quick extended his franchise record for shutouts in a season and is one ahead of St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott for the league lead. Slava Voynov and Dwight King each scored for the Kings in Monday's victory.
"Voynov cracked it open and we went on from there," said King. "Their goaltender was on his game, but Quick was terrific out there tonight and he's been like that all season for us."
The Kings have played the last three games without key forward Jeff Carter, who is day-to-day with a bone bruise in his ankle. Carter has six goals and three assists in 16 games with the Kings since coming over from Columbus in a trade. He is questionable for tonight.