Sure, the novelty of an outdoor game has worn off somewhat in recent years thanks to the NHL rolling out a seemingly endless supply of them from New York to Vancouver over the past two seasons. But this one is different. It's far from hyperbolic to declare that never before has a more meaningful NHL game been played in open air than tonight's highly-anticipated matchup between the Sharks and Kings under Levi's Stadium lights.
Leave aside the underpinnings of what's developed into the league's best rivalry—last spring's historic Sharks collapse, the prior season's Game 7 loss, the fact that the Kings have two Cups while the Sharks are still searching for their first—and even the picturesque setting against the backdrop of a state-of-the-art stadium in ideal Northern California weather. What makes this game different than all the other outdoor games that have come before it are the stakes.
Indoors or out, this is a season-defining game for the Sharks as they try to stave off the Kings for the conference's final playoff spot. Win and they're a somewhat comfortable (though still tenuous, due to all of Los Angeles' games in hand) four points ahead of the Kings. Lose and they'll finish the night outside the playoff picture, their already-slim postseason odds taking their biggest hit yet. It's still nowhere near the stage of a Game 7 but a win tonight would represent a small step towards erasing the painful memories of last April. This should be good.
Tale Of The Tape
|27-18-12, 66 points
||Record||30-22-8, 68 points|
|5th in Pacific||Rank||4th in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Melker Karlsson
Matt Nieto - Logan Couture - Joe Pavelski
Tomas Hertl - James Sheppard - Tommy Wingels
John Scott - Andrew Desjardins - Tyler Kennedy
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Scott Hannan
Projected Kings Lineup
Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Trevor Lewis - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford - Nick Shore - Jordan Nolan
Robyn Regehr - Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin - Matt Greene
Brayden McNabb - Jamie McBain
In one of their most complete efforts against the Los Angeles Kings since Game 2 last spring, the Sharks received two goals from Logan Couture along with tallies by Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski in a 4-2 win on home ice just prior to the All-Star break.
- There are still some concerns about the ice surface, which was described as slushy by a few Sharks players during yesterday's afternoon practice. Hopefully cooler temperatures at night should alleviate those issues somewhat but it's certainly something to monitor throughout the game.
- Here's a list of everything you'll need to know if you're heading out to the game.
- And apropos of nothing, here's a video of Alex Stalock interviewing James Sheppard after yesterday's practice.