When the Sharks attempt to steal home-ice advantage by splitting the first two games of their second-round series against the Kings tonight in Los Angeles, they'll assuredly be without forward Raffi Torres following his controversial hit on Jarret Stoll in Game 1. What we somehow still don't know is how long that will be the case with a suspension verdict yet to be handed down by league disciplinary czar Brendan Shanahan.
Torres being out of the lineup is definitely a blow to the Sharks' forward depth, especially considering Martin Havlat remains injured and won't play, but given the line combinations Todd McLellan was running at today's morning skate, Torres' suspension actually improves the team's top six. Joe Pavelski will be playing right wing on a pretty awesome first line alongside Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture while the Thornton line remains unchanged. After struggling to counter Anze Kopitar (and Mike Richards, in their brief time against him) on Tuesday, Marleau and Couture will have a decidedly better linemate helping them get the job done tonight.
Obviously the Sharks' bottom six suffers with Pavelski moved up but with Stoll injured and unavailable, it's a less dangerous Los Angeles bottom six they will need to contend with. There are some legitimate positives the team can draw from their 2-0 Game 1 loss and with a stronger top line and the Kings' bottom six seemingly whittled down to a level more or less comparable to what the Sharks' third and fourth lines now look like, they have a pretty good chance at tying this series. Well, at least they will if they can find a way to beat Jonathan Quick.
Projected Sharks Lineup
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Joe Pavelski
T.J. Galiardi - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
James Sheppard - Scott Gomez - Tommy Wingels
Bracken Kearns - Andrew Desjardins - Tim Kennedy
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Scott Hannan - Brad Stuart
Projected Kings Lineup
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Brad Richardson - Trevor Lewis
Jordan Nolan - Colin Fraser - Tyler Toffoli
Robyn Regehr - Drew Doughty
Rob Scuderi - Slava Voynov
Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez