SAN JOSE — It's not too early to start thinking about the playoffs, says Coach Andy Murray, but exactly how the Kings are going to get there is nobody's business but his. "I know how many points we need to get for the playoffs and I don't worry about what everybody else does," Murray said Saturday after the Kings' 3-2 victory over the Sharks. "I have it in my mind what we have to get."
So, fill us in. What's the scoop?
"That's between me and my team," Murray said.
Fair enough, but it's probably not that hard to figure out. Last year, the Kings had 92 points, which was good enough for seventh place in the Western Conference. Vancouver, the eighth-place team last year, had 90 points.
Wrapping up their five-games-in-eight-nights trip with an impressive victory over the Sharks, the Kings have 47 points in 45 games. What's more, they are 11-3-3 in their last 17 games.
So you could safely say that the Kings are halfway there with 37 games left.
"We don't need to get ahead of ourselves," backup goalie Jamie Storr said. "If we just take care of our business, we should be all right."
Felix Potvin stopped 39 of 41 shots and the Kings survived a furious rally by the Sharks, who took 18 shots in the third period and got goals from Bryan Marchment and Mike Ricci. San Jose outshot the Kings, 41-20, but Potvin made power-play goals by Jaroslav Modry and Craig Johnson in the first period and Ziggy Palffy's goal in the second period stand up for his 13th victory.
"It's a real testament to our team to come in here and get this win," Murray said.
It also helps to have the top penalty-killing unit in the NHL. The Kings killed all three of the Sharks' chances.
The Kings had every right to be jet-lagged, but that's not the way they started, with two goals in the first period. Actually, just getting here was tough enough--the chartered jet had to stop in Omaha, Neb., to refuel, and arrived late Friday afternoon.
Murray put the Kings through a workout as soon as they could lace up their skates.
Then, as soon as the puck dropped Saturday, the Kings put the Sharks through a workout. The first goal occurred only 2:22 into the game and the Kings were on a power play with Owen Nolan in the penalty box for elbowing.
Philippe Boucher took a shot and the puck rebounded to Adam Deadmarsh, whose shot missed, but the puck bounced out to Modry, who poked the puck past Miikka Kiprusoff and scored his second goal of the season.
"I just put it in," Modry said. "It was good to get a good start."
Nine minutes later, the Kings took a 2-0 lead on another power-play opportunity. Jason Allison got the assist, along with Palffy, who knocked the puck to Johnson at the corner of the goal, where Johnson rammed it past Kiprusoff.
Potvin stopped all 11 shots he faced in the first period. He stopped 12 more in the second period, during which the Kings took only five shots and still managed to increase their lead to 3-0 when, with 1:14 left in the period, Palffy shoveled the puck past Kiprusoff from the right side.