SAN JOSE Michal Handzus spent the previous four years of his career with the Los Angeles Kings, and will face his former team for the first time since signing with the Sharks tonight at HP Pavilion.
He expects his old teammates, many of whom were on the team that the Sharks eliminated in the first round last season, to be pretty pumped up.
Its always been a great game here, especially when you play in the playoffs against them, its a little bit of a bigger rivalry, he said. So, yeah, theyre going to be fired up.
The Kings made some significant moves in the offseason, and its generally thought that they are the biggest threat to the Sharks in the Pacific Division (even with Dallas' impressive 10-3 start). They have struggled to score goals of late, but its a pretty safe bet that the Kings will be challenging for a top seed in the Western Conference come April.
If Handzus has any bitter feelings towards the Kings, who decided to let him walk as an unrestricted free agent over the summer, you wouldn't know it. He was very complimentary of the roster that Los Angeles has put together.
They have some very good players, especially offensively, he said. I think defense, they are very good there. I think theyre a better team.
They dont have many breakdowns in the defense, so you have to play a patient game with them. You cant open up too much, because they can hurt you. But, you have to work for your chances, thats for sure.
Among the Kings additions are forwards Mike Richards, Ethan Moreau and Simon Gagne. Surprisingly, the team has failed to score more than two regulation goals in 11 of its 13 games.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick, though, has been among the NHLs best. Hes fifth in the NHL with a 1.68 goals-against average and seventh with a .941 save percentage, playing in front of defensemen like Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Willie Mitchell.
Quick is playing great this year and backup Jonathan Bernier is very good, too, said Handzus. They play very good defense, and when they make a mistake the goalie is there. Theyre a very good team, and its going to be a good challenge for us. Its a division game, and you need those.
Despite all the changes, Todd McLellan sees a very similar style of play from the Kings. Could he get some inside information on how to beat them from Handzus?
Well talk to Michal a little bit about what their goals are, but its still early in the season, he said. Its going to be about us and our game plan. I dont imagine they are going to re-tool their whole game just because Michal is here.