Sharks head south for first battle with Kings
The Sharks are 1-8-2 in their last 11 games in Los Angeles. (USATSI)
LOS ANGELES -- It’s the end of a five-game road swing, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan isn’t looking at it that way.
The Sharks returned home from four straight games in the Eastern Time Zone immediately after Sunday’s 5-2 win in Ottawa, sleeping in their own beds for two nights and enjoying a day off on Monday. They flew to Southern California after Tuesday’s practice, where they will play the rival Kings for the first time since last year’s disappointing second round defeat on Wednesday night.
“For us, we look at this as a separate road trip,” McLellan said. “One of the things we wanted to do was get back to our own beds after the Ottawa game. … You can lump it together if you want, but this is an individual trip that stands separately. We’ll either be batting one thousand, or zero, when we get home from this road trip.”
Returning home to the Bay Area with three wins in five games would be considered a good trip, as the Sharks will open up a three-game homestand on Saturday against Phoenix.
Getting four wins out of five, and keeping a grasp on the NHL’s best record, makes it a great trip. To do that, they’ll have to win in a building in which they are just 1-8-2 in their last 11, including four losses in the 2013 playoffs.
The Sharks haven’t won in regulation at Staples Center since Jan. 1, 2011.
Los Angeles will be playing in the second of a back-to-back after losing 3-1 in Phoenix on Tuesday night.
“I’m sure they’ll want to be a little better, and we know they’re at home,” Joe Pavelski said. “We know that all too well how good they are at home, so we’ve got to come out hard.”
McLellan said: “They played last night, and that’s taxing. We just experienced that in Ottawa. We’ll try and play our four lines, get everybody involved, and we won’t change anything approach to the game that we’ve had for this one.”
The 10-1-1 Sharks will remain without key players Brent Burns, Dan Boyle and Matt Nieto, and will insert Marty Havlat into the lineup for his season debut. The Sharks have managed to win despite numerous early season injuries, including Raffi Torres and Adam Burish, who have yet to lace up their skates at all in the regular season.
They scored just three goals in the first three games of the road trip, but the Sharks still managed to win two of those before Sunday’s fairly painless win over Ottawa. Antti Niemi will start in net, and has shutouts in two of his last three games. He’ll have to remain on top of his game against Jonathan Quick and the Kings.
That they’ve been able to overcome some significant obstacles lately bodes well for the future, according to Tyler Kennedy.
“It’s great. It builds character in the room and it builds confidence, too,” Kennedy said. “We know that if we play the system and play it well, we’re going to have a good chance at winning hockey games.”
Pavelski was asked if the first of five matchups with the Kings can be viewed as a proverbial “measuring stick” game after the playoff ouster last May.
“We’re not necessarily measuring ourselves against them. It’s a new year, and new team, and we’re playing very similar to how we were playing at the end of last year, but you want to beat them,” Pavelski said.
“You want to beat them in this building, especially after what happened.”