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Kings' Anze Kopitar set to return against Sharks after illness

Kings' Anze Kopitar set to return against Sharks after illness
Kings center Anze Kopitar works against the Columbus Blue Jackets during a game Dec. 20. (Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)

It's probably a good thing Anze Kopitar didn't watch the entire telecast of the Kings' 2-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Monday. It might have made the Slovenian center sicker than he already was.

Kopitar was stricken Sunday by what he said was a virus or stomach flu, leading him to sit out Monday's game. He returned to practice Tuesday alongside Marian Gaborik and Trevor Lewis and said he expects to play against San Jose on Wednesday.

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"I got about two hours' sleep the night before so I figured my energy level was not going to be up to par," he said. "That's why I don't think it would have made any sense to really push it and go down there and play the first period and then say, 'I can't do it anymore,' and risking spreading it around the locker room."

Kopitar's absence interrupted his most productive stretch in a disappointing season. He had earned points in four straight games, his longest scoring streak this season, and had a goal and six assists in that span. He's hoping to pick up where he left off.

"I felt pretty good before this happened," he said. "I felt good on the ice. I felt like I was playing with the puck and making plays that I normally do, so I think I'm trending in the right direction. We're desperate to get points and obviously I want to help the team get those, and in order to do that I've got to produce."

But that surge gave him only four goals and 24 points in 38 games, far below his usual levels. He led the Kings in scoring each of the past nine seasons but currently trails forward Jeff Carter (23 goals, 40 points) and defenseman Alec Martinez (six goals, 25 points) for top team honors.

"I expect the very highest of myself, so yeah, it's not the best feeling when you look at numbers just because of my personal expectations," Kopitar said. "Whatever the outside world thinks of me, it's not weighing on me as much as I do on my own. I think things have been going in the right direction now and hopefully I can sustain it."

Message sent

Defenseman Brayden McNabb was a healthy scratch Monday for the first time this season. He had missed two months after breaking his collarbone and didn't impress Coach Darryl Sutter in eight games after he recovered. Sutter was blunt when asked what McNabb must do in order to regain his job. "Get up to speed. Show some emotion. Show some determination. Show some physicality. Show some quickness," he said. "We've got three defenseman [Derek] Forbort, [Kevin] Gravel and McNabb — that are all sort of in the same position in terms of we need to get a lot more out of them if we're going to be a playoff team. We've given him every opportunity since he got hurt to come back and do those things."

Dowd stitched up, ready to go

Center Nic Dowd acknowledged he was fortunate he didn't lose any teeth Monday when he was struck on the mouth by the puck on a Tampa Bay clearing attempt. He said he had five stitches inside his mouth that will dissolve and three or four stitches outside his mouth that will be removed in about a week.

"It looks a lot worse than it is," said Dowd, who barely missed a shift. "I can eat. Everything is fine. Just soft-tissue stuff. Everything is all good. I got really lucky. There was a little bit of blood, but not too bad."

NEXT UP

VS. SAN JOSE

Where — Staples Center.

When — Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

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On the air — TV: NBCSN. Radio—790.

Update — This game will end the Kings' seven-game homestand; they're 3-3 so far. It also will complete their season series with the Sharks, which stands at 2-2 (including one overtime victory for the Kings). San Jose's Brent Burns led NHL defensemen in scoring through Monday's action with 18 goals and 45 points in 44 games and ranked fifth among all scorers. He had two goals in the Sharks' first four games against the Kings; Logan Couture led them with four goals and six points.

Follow Helene Elliott on Twitter @helenenothelen

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