Yet again, the San Jose Sharks will be battling the Los Angeles Kings in the postseason.
The history between these two teams will make for an epic first round. Having the home ice advantage is going to be key if the series comes down to a final game, seeing as both teams have a tendency to win on home ice.
Last year, the Kings capitalized on this, winning in game seven at home.
Here are three keys the Sharks need to consider come Thursday:
It’s imperative that the Sharks have a healthy lineup come Thursday. Tomas Hertl is back on the ice but is skating very carefully, understandably so after being out for so long. Despite this, the addition to the lineup is bringing momentum and will definitely benefit play.
It is also being said that Raffi Torres will be back in time for this first game. A much-needed addition, Torres is known to bring emotion and physicality to the team. He also has the ability to energize his teammates. This is such a vital aspect going up against the Kings.
Scott Hannan was also back on the ice today for practice. He is healthy and ready to play, however whether he is in the lineup is still up in the air. And finally, there is still no word on Adam Burish after undergoing surgery to his finger.
A controversial area for the Sharks as of late has been the inconsistency in their goaltending.
Antti Niemi has played less than stellar games, giving Alex Stalock more chances in the net. When asked if he was going to rely on Niemi in goal come playoffs, Todd McLellan stated, “Nemo is one of our guys going into the playoffs, yes.”
Seems as if Stalock will be seeing some ice time. Battling against such talent as Jonathan Quick will be tough no matter what. Both Niemi and Stalock will need to step it up for the Sharks to win and go on to the second round.
When the Sharks and Kings faceoff there is no doubt the players will carry a lot of emotion to the ice. Whether that is due to the rivalry between the two teams, losing to LA in the past couple of years come postseason, or the controversial hit that took Hertl out for most of the season, emotions are bound to surface.
But a key to winning this first round is to stay out of the penalty box. If the matchup on April 3rd was any sort of foreshadowing to what’s to come, the Sharks need to find a way to control emotion. Sure a couple of scrums or fights here and there are OK, but too much box time will give the Kings the time to come ahead.