Season On The Line- The San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings resume their Western Conference Semi-Final series tonight at HP Pavilion (aka The Shark Tank) tonight at 5pm PT. The Sharks come into the game tonight trailing the best of seven playoff series against the defending Stanley Cup Champions 3 games to 2. The Sharks have won both games at The Shark Tank, however are 0-3 at the Staples Center (0-5 overall counting the regular season games). The Sharks are hoping for one more crack at the Kings at the Staples Center. In order to get there, they will need to defeat the Kings in Game 6 tonight.
There is precedent for the in Game 6 history following bad Game 5 showings. In 1995, the Sharks lost to the Calgary Flames in Calgary 5-0 in another bad Game 5 showing. The Sharks returned home down 3 games to 2 and took care of business in Game 6, defeating the Flames 5-3. The Sharks would go on to win Game 7 in dramatic fashion in Calgary 5-4 in OT as the great Ray Whitney scored the Game Winning Goal in Double-overtime. The Sharks today are not only looking to repeat this history, but make their own in the process. The Sharks have shown they can match well against the Kings. However the one thing that may be standing in the way of the Sharks and their third Western Conference Finals appearance in five seasons is Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who has posted two shutouts against the Sharks this playoff series (Game’s 1 and 5). The suspension of Raffi Torres by the NHL for what may likely be the rest of the post season has not helped either.
However the Sharks have shown that they are probably the one team that has given the Kings the most trouble in the over two of the last three post seasons. Captain Joe Thornton is still on top of his game. Logan Couture has shown that he is definitely the future of the franchise. Joe Pavelski has played well. Patrick Marleau is due. Antti Niemi had his best performances in Games 3 and 4 when they Sharks had consecutive victories in “must win” situations. All that is left for the Sharks now are all must win situations. If the Sharks can take care of business tonight, they will force a seventh and deciding game in Los Angeles this Tuesday evening. The last thing the Kings want is a Game 7 scenario.
For more on tonight’s match up, here is Brian Hunter’s write up of tonights match up for NHL .com…
KINGS at SHARKS
(Los Angeles leads best-of-7 series, 3-2)
TV: NBCSN, TSN, RDS
Big story: The Los Angeles Kings remain unbeaten at Staples Center, and as a result they have the opportunity to clinch their second consecutive berth in the Western Conference Finals. However, in order to accomplish that and avoid having to go a seventh game with the San Jose Sharks, they’ll have to win at HP Pavilion, where they lost twice earlier in this series. After posting a 10-1 road mark on their march to the Stanley Cup in 2012, the Kings are 1-4 away from home this postseason.
Kings: Goals haven’t been easy to come by throughout this series, and Game 5 proved no exception as Los Angeles and San Jose battled scoreless into the latter stages of the second period. That the ice was finally be broken by Anze Kopitar came as a bit of a surprise — not because Kopitar doesn’t have the pedigree of an elite scorer, but because it was only his second goal in 27 games dating back to the regular season.
After Kopitar broke the ice with 1:52 left in the second, defenseman Slava Voynov found his own scoring touch again and doubled the lead 53 seconds into the third. Jeff Carter added an empty-netter and Quick completed the shutout with 24 saves for a 3-0 victory that puts the Kings back in control.
But to avoid a Game 7, they’ll have to figure out a way to win at the Shark Tank, where San Jose has lost just twice in regulation in 28 regular-season and playoff games.
“We’re preparing to go up there and win,” captain Dustin Brown said Saturday. “We don’t want to go up there and steal a game. We want to go up there and win a game. Your game plan doesn’t change, it’s just a mentality to go into a tough building and get the job done. There’s a difference between knowing you’re going to win and hoping you’re going to win and we got to go up there knowing we’re to win.”
Sharks: Just as Los Angeles has yet to lose a game in its building this postseason, San Jose can make the same claim. The Sharks are a perfect 4-0 on home ice against the Vancouver Canucks and Kings, and they have no choice but to build off that if they want to force a winner-take-all seventh game.
Antti Niemi won’t be an issue — even in defeat Thursday, he stopped 26 of 28 shots and gave his team a chance to win. But the Sharks are having the same issue the St. Louis Blues had before them — as well as the Canucks, Blues, Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils last postseason — and that’s finding a way to get enough goals against Quick to win.
Forward Logan Couture, who included himself among the top players who didn’t produce in Game 5, said Saturday he expects a much better effort and that he and his teammates are in a positive frame of mind.
“Confident and having a good time,” Couture said of the Sharks’ outlook entering Game 6. “There’s definitely not an uncomfortable feeling. We’re going to approach it like our season’s on the line because it is and I expect us to be very desperate and play well.”
Who’s hot: Quick’s shutout in Game 5 was the seventh of his postseason career. He has three in 11 starts, matching his total from 20 starts a year ago. His 1.50 goals-against average and .948 save percentage lead the NHL. Carter (2-3-5) and Mike Richards (2-3-5) lead the Kings in scoring for the series. … Niemi has allowed just four goals on 78 shots over the past three games.
Injury report: Los Angeles forward Jarret Stoll (upper body) hasn’t played since Game 1 of the series. … San Jose forwards Martin Havlat (lower body) and Adam Burish (upper body) are sidelined. Burish took the pre-game skate Thursday, but didn’t play. He may be ready to return for Game 6.
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