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Sharks at Kings Preview: Welcome back Ilya Kovalchuk

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It’s been 264 days since these two teams last met.

San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks right wing Kevin Labanc (62) and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Kurtis MacDermid (56) collide during the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

First win of the season, take two.

After dropping their home opener, the Sharks head to Southern California to try and spoil the Los Angeles Kings’s season opener.

The Sharks had a lot to work on in practice yesterday. During Wednesday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, both teams took three penalties apiece. The Ducks scored on two of their power plays, the Sharks failed to score on any of theirs. Bottom line, both the penalty kill and power play were miserable.

So was Martin Jones, who let in some weak ones and finished the night with a .714 save percentage. Not ideal.

Both the special teams and Jones will look to bounce back tonight.

As for the Kings, it’s a clean slate for them. This is game one of the season.

LA will be without Dustin Brown, who suffered a broken finger during the preseason. Brown was a key scorer for the Kings last season, registering 61 points (28 goals, 33 assists). For a team that doesn’t score a lot, his presence will be missed.

There are also a couple of young players that will not make the opening night roster because of injuries. Jonny Brodzinski and Gabriel Vilardi are both sidelined tonight.

Making up for it will be the return of Jeff Carter, who missed much of last season with a leg injury. The Kings say Carter is healthy and ready to go for this season.

The return of Ilya Kovalchuk

Also ready to go, Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk is playing in the NHL for the first time in five seasons. The 35-year-old signed a three-year, $18.75 million deal with the Kings in the off-season.

With Brown, Brodzinski and Vilardi out, Kovalchuk is expected to play right wing on the top line. That means he’ll be playing alongside Anze Kopitar and Alex Iafallo. Expect Kovalchuk to get time on the power play as well, which means he has a chance to notch a goal in his first game back in the NHL.

Can Martin Jones bounce back?

Standing in his way, we hope, is Jones. I already talked about how incredibly poor his play was Wednesday night so I won’t dwell on it any longer. It’s a safe bet that Jones will be better tonight, it’s just a question if he’ll be good enough to walk away with a win.

If we go off of history, Jones likes playing his old team. He’s a career 8-3-2 in regular season games against L.A., which should make Sharks fans breathe a little easier.

Who registers a goal for the Sharks first, Antti Suomela or Erik Karlsson?

One positive of Wednesday night’s game was the play of Antti Suomela. After the Sharks traded Chris Tierney to Ottawa as part of the package deal for Erik Karlsson, there was a lot of question about who would slot into the third-line center role. If Wednesday night’s game is any indication, it’s Suomela. His line with Evander Kane and Joonas Donskoi was great in 5-on-5 play, taking nine shots on goal and allowing 0. (Thanks Erik F. for that stat.)

Meanwhile, Karlsson still seems to be getting a feel for the Sharks and his defensive partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic. It may take a few games for him to truly find his groove with his new team.

Which leads to the question, who’s the first to score a goal in a Sharks’s uniform, Suomela or Karlsson? Please feel free to talk amongst yourselves.

Bold Prediction: Erik Karlsson scores his first goal of the season. It’s a power play goal assisted by Joe Thornton and Brent Burns. Suomela also scores. All in all, it’s a great night to be a Sharks fan! Beat L.A.!