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Sharks vs. Kings Preview: Tightening grip on division lead

San Jose is in first place in the Pacific, but it’s a tenuous lead at best.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Sharks played the Kings 49 days ago, things went pretty well for San Jose. They beat Los Angeles 2-1, outshot the Kings 31-22 and held its archrival scoreless after Tyler Toffoli’s early power-play goal. Oh, and Jonathan Quick left the game with an injury after throwing a temper tantrum.

A month and change later, the Sharks sit atop the Pacific Division while the Kings are very much hanging around. San Jose’s 27 points give the team a tenuous two-point lead over the Kings; and the Sharks have played an extra game, too. So a win increases San Jose’s lead in the division, while a loss moves the teams into a tie.

The Kings remain one of the best possession teams in the NHL, and while their scoring touch remains mediocre they’ve gotten incredible goaltending from Peter Budaj. Go figure. There’s not a whole lot Sharks fans don’t know about the Kings at this point, but the biggest obstacle for San Jose will be playing a 60 minute game one day after playing an overtime contest against Arizona.

Martin Jones started on Tuesday so, god willing, Aaron Dell will make his fourth start of the season tonight. Keeping legs fresh against a tough team like the Kings is easier said than done, but the Sharks have the option of subbing in someone like Matt Nieto to try to offset those tired legs tomorrow.

This is the second game of a tough three-game stretch which wraps up on Friday with a home game against the Montreal Canadiens. If San Jose can get at least a point out of tonight’s tilt with the Kings, the team can call this swing a success regardless of Friday’s result.

I’ll be in the press box tonight, so get ready for some hot tweets and questions about the kind of pizza Brent Burns is eating tonight. I’m excited, too.

Tonight’s game is on NBC Sports. If you’re a cable subscriber, you can stream the game right here.