In the Crease: Sharks hope to avoid epic collapse vs. Kings

Couture: 'All the outsiders picked this to go seven. It is. Here we go.'

In the Crease: Sharks hope to avoid epic collapse vs. Kings
April 30, 2014, 10:00 am
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Antti Niemi is 3-2 with an .882 save percentage and 3.90 goals-against average this series. (USATSI)

Programming note: Coverage of Game 7 between the Kings and Sharks begins tonight at 6:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California (Channel locations)

Series schedule

The Sharks and Kings are tied in their best-of-seven series, three games apiece

Game 1 – April 17, Sharks 6, Kings 3
Game 2 – April 20, Sharks 7, Kings 2
Game 3 – April 22, Sharks 4, Kings 3 (OT)
Game 4 – April 24, Kings 6, Sharks 3
Game 5 – April 26, Kings 3, Sharks 0
Game 6* – April 28, Kings 4, Sharks 1

Game 7 – April 30, Kings @ Sharks, 7 p.m.

The latest

Justin Williams scored a controversial goal in the third period and Anze Kopitar added two more as the Kings pulled away late to win Game 6 at Staples Center on Monday night, 4-1. James Sheppard scored the only goal for San Jose, tying the game in the second period. Alex Stalock allowed four goals on 30 shots in his first career playoff start, taking the loss. The Sharks have played with a lead for just one minute and 32 seconds since the start of Game 3.

The winner of the Sharks-Kings series will face the Anaheim Ducks on the road to start the second round. Anaheim beat Dallas, four games to two, in its first round series.

Playoff series notes

The Sharks are 5-3 all-time in Game 7. Los Angeles is 4-4, including a win over the Sharks in last year’s second round.

This will be San Jose’s third Game 7 at home. They won the previous two vs. Detroit on May 12, 2011 and Calgary on April 22, 2008.

The Kings are trying to become just the fourth NHL team to ever erase a 3-0 series hole, joining the 1942 Maple Leafs, 1975 Islanders and 2010 Flyers.

Keep an eye on…

Sharks: Brent Burns. After three points in the first three games of the series, Burns has gone cold. He skated for just 14 minutes and 14 seconds in Game 6, and is on a lengthy list of top players for the Sharks that have simply been outplayed by the Kings’ best players for the last three games. Burns has just one even-strength point in the series other than an empty net goal, assisting on a Joe Thornton goal in Game 1.

Kings: Justin Williams. The veteran winger has five goals and four assists in four career Game 7 appearances, including scoring two against the Sharks last year as the Kings advanced. Williams, who has four goals in the series, has helped his teams go a perfect 4-0 in Game 7s.

Vitals

Sharks
Goals per game: 3.50 (T – 2nd)
Goals-against per game: 3.50 (T -13th)
Power play: 15.4 percent (10th)
Penalty kill: 76.2 percent (11th)

Kings
Goals per game: 3.50 (T – 2nd)
Goals-against per game: 3.50 (T -13th)
Power play: 23.8 percent (6th)
Penalty kill: 84.6 percent (8th)

Probable lines

Sharks
Tomas Hertl – Joe Thornton – Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Matt Nieto
Marty Havlat – Joe Pavelski – Tommy Wingels
James Sheppard – Andrew Desjardins – Raffi Torres

Matt Irwin – Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart – Justin Braun
Scott Hannan – Jason Demers

Antti Niemi (confirmed)
Alex Stalock

Kings
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King – Jarret Stoll – Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford – Mike Richards – Trevor Lewis

Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr – Slava Voynov
Matt Greene – Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick (confirmed starter)
Martin Jones

Injuries/Scratches

Sharks: Marc-Edouard Vlasic (upper body) and Adam Burish (fractured left hand) are out.

Kings: Willie Mitchell (lower body) is out.

Quoteable

“We understand what’s at stake. … There was the possibility the series was going to go to seven. We probably didn’t think it was going to get there this way, but we’re here now and guys will be ready to play.” – Joe Pavelski

Burning question

Who do the Sharks need to step up and lead the way in Game 7? Leave your answer in the comments section below.