The San Jose Sharks will take their talents to L.A. for their playoff opener, seeking to steal an early game on the road.
We have finally arrived – the Stanley Cup playoffs will begin tonight for the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings. Each of the last three seasons where both franchises made the playoffs, these two in-state rivals have squared off.
The Sharks strive for a different outcome from their last two postseason meetings against the Kings. Both series in 2013 and 2014 went seven games, with the Kings rebounding from a 3-0 series deficit in 2014 to win four straight to snatch the series right out of team teal’s grasp.
The Kings are a popular pick to reach the Stanley Cup finals, yet the white, silver and black finished with only four more points (102) than the Sharks (98) in the regular season.
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To the pleasure of Sharks supporters, San Jose welcomes back defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and forward Matt Nieto from injuries after both missed a significant amount of time down the stretch.
As for L.A., the Kings’ Marian Gaborik, Matt Greene and Alec Martinez are all banged up, though the team hopes to have all three back at some point in the playoffs. Martinez should be good to go for Game One, while Greene’s status is up in the air. Gaborik is still out indefinitely.
Greene and Martinez’s absences has led to a thin group of defensemen for the Kings in their last few games heading into the postseason, but the latter’s return strengthens the Kings’ defensive core.
Between the pipes, Martin Jones‘ presence makes for an interesting storyline. Jones, the former Kings backup, has performed at a high level for the majority of the season for the Sharks, and he will make his playoff debut as a starting goalie Thursday night versus his former teammate Jonathan Quick. Jones’ 37-23-4 record, .918 save percentage and 2.27 GAA this season is compatible to Quick’s 40-23-5 record, .918 save percentage and 2.22 GAA. Both net minders have had stellar campaigns.
It will be an interesting battle between the surplus of talented, veteran forwards in this game between guys like Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward for the Sharks versus Milan Lucic, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown for the Kings. Expect a lot of tactical play with a greater emphasis on back-checking by both sides. This isn’t a matchup like Panthers-Islanders where they is little playoff experience to go around – this will be a long, hard-hitting, calculated series between two teams who have aspirations to make a deep playoff run.