Kings (12-3-0) vs. San Jose Sharks (8-5-2) at HP Pavilion, 7:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Role Reversal – The Sharks have won three straight Pacific Division titles. The Kings? Try 1990-91. But for one of the few times since San Jose joined the division in 1993-94, the Sharks are staring up at the Kings and probably wondering, ‘How did I get here?’ Well, for starters, you fired Dean Lombardi as general manager in 2002 and he now works for the Kings, where he has done a phenomenal job of rebuilding the organization. Touche!
2. Road Ready – After sweeping just their second five-game home stand in franchise history, the Kings play on the road Monday for the first time in 2 ½ weeks. And this isn’t just any road game. According to a Sports Illustrated poll of NHL players last winter, the Shark Tank was voted as the ‘toughest road arena to play in." The Kings haven’t been so intimidated by the Tank lately, owning a 5-3-2 record in their last 10 games at HP Pavilion, while just 3-6-1 at home against the Sharks.
3. Repeat business -- This topic is getting redundant but only because it’s getting more remarkable. The Kings’ penalty-kill unit has risen to the top of the NHL standings with a success rate of 92.2% this season. Let’s not hold our breath here, but the Kings are on pace to allow just 95.6 goals this season, and the NHL record for fewest goals allowed during a season of 70 or more games is 131 by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1953-54.
4. Say it ain’t so Joe – San Jose forward Joe Thornton has averaged just over a point a game for his entire 14-year NHL career, and he's done the same against the Kings, putting up 50 points in 44 career games. Thornton, who was second in the NHL last season with 69 assists, was in the final year of his contract before signing a three-year, $21 million extension last month. He has 12 points in the eight games since.
5. New-look line -- Sharks rookie Logan Couture was placed on the same line as Joe Pavelski and Ryane Clowe during San Jose’s current five-game home stand, and all three scored goals in a 4-3 victory Saturday against the visiting Calgary Flames. Pavelski and Clowe hadn’t scored since Oct. 23, so keep an eye on that line’s production.