Programming note: Coverage of Game 4 between the Sharks and Kings begins Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on CSN California with Sharks Pregame Live (Channel locations)
LOS ANGELES -- The Sharks’ don’t have refer too far back to remember the last time they had a chance to close out a playoff series up three-games-to-none.
In the first round in 2013, San Jose won the first three against a higher-seeded Vancouver club. Game 4 was the Canucks’ best effort, but it wasn’t enough, as Patrick Marleau’s overtime goal advanced the Sharks to the second round.
“We’re going to do what we can to win, finish them in four,” said Logan Couture on Wednesday at Staples Center. “You can’t give a good team like the L.A. Kings life. We’re going to do whatever we can. We know they’re going to be desperate. We have to match their desperation and play our best game this series to beat them.”
Justin Braun said: “It’s a big challenge to close teams out. We were able to do it last year. We played a really good game that Game 4. We’re going to have to match that or be better [Thursday] to close this one out.”
Head coach Todd McLellan reminded his team on Wednesday morning of their success against the Canucks, but also brought up a playoff series in 2011, when San Jose won the first three games against Detroit in the second round before dropping the next three and prevailing in a decisive Game 7.
The dragged out nature of that encounter could have hurt the Sharks that year, as they went on to lose to Vancouver in five games in the Western Conference Final. Putting the final nail in the Kings’ coffin as soon as possible could be vital if the Sharks hope to have a lengthy playoff run.
“We’ve had the Detroit experience with a large part of this group, where we didn’t close them out and went seven games. Perhaps that hurt us moving on after we did win Game 7,” McLellan said. “The Vancouver experience last year, that was the Canucks’ best game in the series. They pushed us as hard as they could, and we expect the same thing tomorrow night.”
The physical nature of the Sharks-Kings battle likely adds to that urgency. Although the Sharks haven’t suffered any catastrophic injuries (that we know of), the two rival clubs are playing the body at every opportunity. Los Angeles’ 169 hits leads the league, while the Sharks place third with 143.
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“That’s the incentive all the time,” McLellan said. “Regardless, you want to get things done, but there’s a team wearing black and silver tomorrow night that has a lot to say about that. They will play hard, exceptionally hard. The message again to our group is to expect that.”
The Sharks know that if they advance, they’ll be playing the winner of the Anaheim-Dallas first round series. The Ducks lead two games to one, but Dallas held serve on its home ice in Game 3 and will try to tie it in Game 4 on Wednesday night.
Anaheim has already lost one significant player in defenseman Stephane Robidas to a fractured leg. The Sharks would like to keep the health of the their club intact, and if they win here on Thursday, they could get a week off between playoff games with as healthy a roster as can be expected this time of year.
“I think as a group, we feel pretty good,” Couture said.
Chances are better it will stay that way if business is handled in Game 4.