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Sharks Gameday: Battle of California?

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Los Angeles Kings (18-10-3) at San Jose Sharks (19-7-5), 7:30 PST
See Rudy's post below for why he hates Evgeni Nabokov.

Didn't it seem just like yesterday when Sharks/Kings games were essentially meaningless other than some carryover Giants/Dodgers regional hatred? Ah, the good ol' days, when we'd hype up a Battle of California: Rumble for Supremecy between the evil Pronger-led Ducks and the Sharks. Those were the days, when Corey Perry kicked people and Jonathan Cheechoo scored hat tricks -- and awesomely wrong t-shirts were made following a playoff series. Memories...

And now? Cheechoo is shoveling Daniel Alfredsson's snow up in Ottawa, Corey Perry is scoring instead of kicking people, and Chris Pronger is leading some sort of internal battle within Philly's locker room, kinda like when Kevin Nash split off his own NWO faction. And those Kings, those lovable runts of the BoC that always had disgruntled RudyKelly rants before each game, those very same Kings aren't too far behind in the Pacific Division standings. (There's an Earl Sleek cartoon in that paragraph somewhere.)

Battle of California, indeed.

The last time these two teams played was back in October, and back then, Sharks fans were still fearing an Anaheim resurgence while wondering when the bottom would fall out on Anze Kopitar and the Kings. While Kopitar's season might have stalled, the Kings kept rolling. With all due respect to Earl Sleek, the Battle of California: Rumble for Supremacy is now between the regular season awesomeness of the Sharks and the "We're here for real" LA Kings.

How can we know the Kings are for real? Flash-in-the-pan teams usually disappear after a strong October and wind up battling for eighth place. While the Kings have had their ups and downs, their record speaks for itself, and it's almost halfway through December. While there's always a chance for any team to experience an epic meltdown, I think we can finally stop talking about what a good young team LA will eventually have, and we can check them off as this season's SoCal rival.

It's just kind of different getting amped up about a BoC game without Chris Pronger involved, though.

The King I'd Like On My Team: Ryan Smyth, just so Rudy's head would explode when he scores off a Rob Blake pass.

Prediction: Sharks 4, Kings 2. Goals by Heatley (2), Marleau, and Clowe. Todd McLellan shakes up the power play units and it scores at home.