Sharks Gameday: It's Been Awhile
|8-4-0, 16 points||7-4-1, 15 points |
|2nd in Western Conference ||5th in Western Conference |
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Pound for pound, this is probably the biggest game the Sharks and Kings have played against one another since, well, forever. At least what seems like forever.
Embellishment? Maybe. Then again, maybe not.
Los Angeles rolls into HP Pavilion tonight atop of the Pacific Division, thanks in part to a current four game winning streak that culminated in a 6-2 drubbing of the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night. Goaltending has been an issue for the club in the past, but this season it hasn't mattered- despite a sub .900 SV% from both Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg, the Kings have managed to put the puck in the net at a 3.67 per game rate, good for third in the NHL.
Enter Anze Kopitar.
Fresh off a seven year $47.6 M dollar extension signed in October of last year, Kopitar has clicked with offseason acquisition Ryan Smyth. The formula is simple-- Smyth bangs in front of the net and uses his body to hold the puck down low, while Kopitar is able to rove between the circles and use his excellent vision to find holes where a wicked wrist shot can be unleashed. The formula is also working-- both find themselves amongst the top ten in the early Art Ross race, with Kopitar's 21 points leading the league.
"It's nice, real nice," the Kings center told Fear The Fin in an interview that obviously never occurred. "I've enjoyed my day in the sun thus far. Even if my complexion doesn't show it."
Any concerns that production may slide as the season progresses? "Sure, of course you think about it. You don't end up looking like a raccoon when you're sleeping well. I like to think I aesthetically represent the average Kings fan. [Forty years of] futility has a way of weighing on you, and insomnia probably isn't all too uncommon amongst the faithful."
Despite some first periods that can be described as anything but faithful, San Jose is coming off a successful East Coast road trip in which they posted a 4-2-0 record, picking up wins against notables such as the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. A regulation win at HP Pavilion tonight would put them back in the Pacific division lead. While not a must-have by any means at this stage of the season, the two organizations will be approaching the game with similar mind-sets. For the Kings, it's a litmus test. For the Sharks, it's an emphasis on traditional divisional roles.
For both, it's an opportunity to make a direct statement. And that's something we haven't been able to say for a long time.
Prediction: Sharks win 5-3. Goals by Marleau (x2), Ferriero, Boyle, and Demers. Frolov goes pointless and subsequently gets traded; Ryan Smyth cries about it because that's just what he does.