There is no better way to spend a holiday than an afternoon rivalry game. Today the Sharks take on the Los Angeles Kings in enemy territory. The Sharks have some points to make up and it’s sure to be a fun one.
Anyone else still recovering from Saturday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes? The first period included three goals by each team and a change in goal for San Jose. Aaron Dell replaced Martin Jones after the Coyotes successfully netted three goals to match San Jose’s. Joonas Donskoi kept the Sharks alive, putting in two goals. Aaron Dell picked up his first career NHL point, getting an assist on Donskoi’s second goal of the night. In the end, it was Marc Edouard Vlasic who won the game in OT. The Sharks picked up the overtime win with the final score 6-5.
The Sharks have struggled defensively. Dylan DeMelo returned from Injured Reserve yesterday, though no word on if he’ll be in the line up yet. Meanwhile, Marcus Sorensen was sent packing down the hallway back to the San Jose Barracuda. Tonight will certainly be a task for the Sharks defensively, fighting off L.A.’s Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Tyler Toffoli. Saturday’s game showed an improvement for the Sharks’ even strength scoring potential which will be key today against the King’s impressive goaltending and defense.
The Kings are coming off a big loss to our other least favorite team, the Anaheim Ducks. They fell 4-2 in a game that produced three fights. Regardless of the loss, the King’s top point producer Anze Kopitar got his 18th goal of the season. Offensively, this team is doing well, which will certainly be a challenge for the Sharks this afternoon. Defensemen Jake Muzzin is expected to still be out with a lower-body injury. Muzzin has 23 points on the season, and his absence was felt during Saturday’s loss to the Ducks.
Saturday’s loss marked L.A.’s third straight. Leading up to their bye week, they fell 4-3 to both the Calgary Flames and the Nashville Predators. The Sharks could really capitalize on the King's current shortcomings. After finding their even strength offensive game on Saturday, a win today against a rival team could be the lift the Sharks need.
I’m sure you all recall the last meeting between these two teams: Brenden Dillon and Drew Doughty had it out for each other most of the game, leading to the infamous Dillon-on-Doughty hit. The Sharks pulled off a 2-0 win. The Sharks also pulled off a 2-1 win against them back in November. Currently, San Jose sits two points below L.A. in the Pacific division, so a win would be really nice.
Will Martin Jones start against his former team?
It’s no secret Martin Jones is struggling a bit this season. In 29 games played this season, his save percentage sits at .911%. He was pulled midway through the first period during Saturday’s game when the Coyotes answered back quickly to all three goals, tying the game. I think it would be a mistake to sit Jones, and I don’t think he will be sat. He knows the Kings all too well, and I think he could get back into form with a win today. Maybe he could use a little confidence boost.
Are two division rivalry games days apart going to be a challenge for the Kings?
I think it’s pretty clear the Nor-Cal/So-Cal rivalries are REAL. The Kings and the Sharks certainly don’t get along. The Kings are coming off a loss to their other top rival. That game consisted of three fights and four goals scored against them. Rivalry games are incredibly physically and emotionally draining. It will be interesting to see if the Kings are affected. They should at least be tired, right? Maybe I’m just grasping at straws to calm my own anxiety going into this game.
Brenden Dillon vs. Drew Doughty part two?
Honestly, I don’t have any real answers to this. I would just really love to relive the thrill I had watching Doughty get drilled. I’m so sorry.
Bold prediction: The Sharks will win this game in regulation. I can’t believe we’re at a place where that’s a bold prediction I’m making. Help.
Make sure you check back for our game day thread where you’ll find the projected lines! If you have any bold predictions leave them in the comments below!