Kings-Sharks Preview

It’s been four seasons since the Los Angeles Kings lost four

straight road games.

Now the Stanley Cup champions have to face a team that owns the

fewest regulation home losses that is in position to overtake them

in the standings.

Playoff positioning is at stake Tuesday night between these

Pacific Division rivals at the HP Pavilion, where the San Jose

Sharks have won five straight over the Kings.

Los Angeles (24-14-4) hasn’t lost four in a row on the road

since a five-game slide Feb. 25-March 13, 2009.

These teams are vying for home-ice advantage in the first round

of the postseason. The Kings are in fourth in the Western

Conference with 52 points while the Sharks (22-13-7) are fifth with

51.

Starting a potential series between these teams in San Jose

could be a problem for the Stanley Cup champions, although coach

Darryl Sutter did not agree with the notion that the Sharks are

traditionally tough at home.

“Not traditionally,” he told the Kings’ official website. “This

year they are. I think they have one regulation loss. So I don’t

know if that’s a tradition. That’s this year, so that’s what it’s

based on. Teams change. Personnel changes. Half their team

changes.”

There’s no debating that this venue has traditionally been tough

for the Kings. The Sharks are 23-6-2 in the last 31 home

matchups.

San Jose is starting a four-game homestand after going 2-2-0 on

a trip capped by Monday’s 4-0 victory at Phoenix. Antti Niemi

stopped 35 shots for his fourth shutout of the season.

“A 4-0 win in a building we haven’t had a lot of success in

lately, it was a good way to end it,” coach Todd McLellan

said.

Niemi is 13-1-4 with a 1.75 goals-against average at home this

season. He’s also 4-1-0 with a 2.27 GAA in six starts at HP

Pavilion against the Kings.

That includes a 4-3 victory March 14 in which Logan Couture had

two goals and an assist. The Kings evened the season series two

days later with a 5-2 home victory behind two goals from Kyle

Clifford.

Couture scored his 17th goal Monday to tie Patrick Marleau for

the team lead. He’s eagerly anticipating his club’s next game.

“We have a big game against LA … and we’re looking forward to

that one, so it’s good to get this one,” Couture said.

Marleau, meanwhile, has one goal in his last 10 games, although

he has 14 points in his last 10 versus the Kings.

Los Angeles has not played since Saturday’s 2-1 victory over

Anaheim. Drew Doughty, who has no points in his last five meetings

with San Jose, had a goal and an assist.

These teams also meet at Staples Center to close the season

April 27.

“Every game has a different feel, regardless of the time of the

year,” Kings winger Justin Williams said. “But points are at a

premium now, we’re certainly pushing for the best playoff position

we can get.”

Kings center Mike Richards has seven points during a six-game

run.