Sharks, Kings each hoping to claim Pacific crown
Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 10:23 AMKINGS (40-27-14) at SHARKS (42-29-10)
TV: NBCSN (HD), KCOP-13 (HD), CSN-CA (HD)
Los Angeles 6-2-2; San Jose 6-4-0
The Kings have a chance to even things up for the season on the last day, as the Sharks picked up the first road win of the series with Thursday's 6-5 shootout win in Los Angeles. Each of the first four games went to the home team. Since they go in even on points, the head-to-head will not have any bearing on the Pacific Division title because the winner will have at least one more point than the loser.
Both teams are in the playoffs thanks to Dallas and Colorado losing Thursday, but the Pacific Division is still a three-horse race. The Coyotes had two more games to play going into Friday night and a chance to finish with 97 points and the title. A slip-up in either game, though, opens things up for the winner of this one, who will end up with 96. At the end of Saturday's action, one team will have the third seed in the Western Conference and the other two will be seventh and eighth.
They won't meet in the playoffs unless they both go deep, but Thursday night's home-and-home opener in Los Angeles had that level of intensity, even if it had a little regular-season chippiness. Three fights and 63 penalty minutes will do that, plus a little twist of fate that the Kings will remember for Saturday as they play for what would be only the second division title in their 44-year history.
With about two minutes left in regulation and the score tied 5-5, Jarret Stoll skated down the right wing on a break in front of the Sharks' bench when Ryane Clowe
stuck his stick out and poked the puck away. Stoll complained, the cameras caught it, but the refs didn't. Clowe claimed ignorance, but Drew Doughty wasn't buying it.
"I don't see why he shouldn't (get suspended)," Doughty said. "To me, that's like a guy running down the football field and a guy comes out and tackles him to keep him from getting a touchdown. I don't see how this is any different. Maybe the refs didn't see it, but I wouldn't blame them full-out. It's hard to see things like that, especially a stick reaching over the bench."
While the Clowe stick trick was caught on video, the NHL will not be handing down any supplemental discipline for the action, as it was a missed interference call according to the rulebook.
"Had the referees or linesmen seen this, it would have been a minor penalty, nothing more," John Dellapina, NHL Vice President of Public Relations, told the San Jose Mercury News in an email. Clowe kept mum on the subject immediately after the game, but confessed to his actions in practice Friday.
"Obviously, as you can tell when I sat down on the bench, that was stupid, that was a dumb play," Clowe told the Mercury News. "It probably should have been a two-minute penalty and I was lucky it didn't cost the team. It was definitely a brain cramp at the time. Don't think it'll ever happen again."
Anze Kopitar set a career high with his 49th assist on an Alec Martinez goal Thursday and added two more assists. He is currently on a five-game points streak. … Both Joe Thornton
and Clowe had Gordie Howe hat tricks on Thursday. Clowe added to his by getting into a second scrap. It's the first time in Sharks history two players had Gordies in the same game. The pair, along with Marleau and Joe Pavelski
, all have three-game points streaks.
Kings forward Jeff Carter (ankle) has missed four games so far but expects to be ready for the postseason at least. … Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray
(lower body) has also missed four games but has been skating and is close to returning. Torrey Mitchell
, still smarting from a hit by Colin Fraser, may be held out of Saturday's lineup.
The Kings reached a season high in power-play goals scored Thursday with four, but allowed a season-high three. It was the first time they scored four with a man up since Feb. 16, 2009 against Atlanta. It's also only the second time this season the Kings allowed four goals or more in regulation. They had been 8-0-0 when scoring four. … The Sharks have won six of eight and three in a row, but their road win in Los Angeles is only the fourth in their last 15 opportunities. … In the five head-to-head games so far this year, Kopitar leads all scorers with nine points (2g, 7a). Marleau has 33 goals and 74 points in 82 career games against the Kings.
"As a team we want to be emotionally attached to the game, but with that comes some emotional control. I thought it was a very intense game yesterday and at times it got the better of us. I thought we took far too many penalties, penalties we didn't need to take. And that should have been one of them." -- Sharks coach Todd McLellan in the Mercury News discussing the missed call on Clowe's interference with Stoll