Sharks-Kings Preview

It’s clear how important home-ice advantage is when the Los

Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks meet.

There hasn’t been a regulation win by the visiting team in the

last 15 regular-season matchups, and the Sharks will try to change

that Thursday night.

San Jose (21-7-6) posted the only victory by the visitors in

that 15-game span with a 6-5 shootout win April 5, 2012. The Sharks

are 1-4-3 at Staples Center since a 1-0 victory on New Year’s Day

in 2011.

The home team has captured the last 14 overall meetings,

including all seven games in last season’s Western Conference

semifinal series won by the Kings.

Los Angeles (23-8-4) will be happy to be home, where it has

posted consecutive shutouts by rookie Martin Jones. The Kings will

also be pleased they won’t be tasked with ending a nine-game slide

in San Jose, including playoffs.

Both 2013-14 meetings went past regulation. Anze Kopitar scored

in overtime of the Kings’ 4-3 win Oct. 30 before the Sharks

survived eight rounds of a shootout for a 3-2 victory Nov. 27.

San Jose will see its third Los Angeles goalie if Jones gets his

introduction to this heated Pacific Division rivalry.

Jones improved to 6-0-0 with a 0.82 goals-against average

Tuesday, making 24 saves for his third shutout in five games in a

3-0 win over Edmonton. He’s starting since Jonathan Quick is out

with a groin injury.

”I want to make sure I’m focused and prepared for the games,

but also have some fun as well,” Jones said. ”My job is to work

hard in practice and be ready to play when called upon.”

Quick and Ben Scrivens have faced the Sharks this season.

The Kings got goals from Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and Dustin

Brown to begin this four-game homestand that leads into a four-day

break for the holidays.

“San Jose, we’re very familiar with, they play a hard game,”

King said. “I think it’s nice obviously, right before the break,

we’ve got a lot of hockey so it’s going to be nice to get these

games in and keep ourselves sharp.”

Although the Sharks have had trouble in Los Angeles, they could

be confident after posting their second victory in another city

that is tough on visitors with Tuesday’s 4-2 win at St. Louis.

Joe Pavelski and Matt Irwin had first-period goals and Brent

Burns made it 3-0 in the second before San Jose held off a charge

by the Blues thanks to Martin Havlat’s score with 8:19 left. The

Sharks ended a four-game road slide.

”A win is a win and we’re going to take that,” coach Todd

McLellan said. ”I haven’t seen anybody play a perfect game this

year. We let the momentum get away on us. But in the third period,

I thought we went out there and re-established it.”

Antti Niemi made 20 saves and will likely make his third start

against the Kings this season. Niemi is 1-8-1 in his last 10 starts

at Staples Center, including the postseason.