Sharks expect physical showdown vs. Kings
The 21-7-6 Sharks (48 points) enter Thursday night's showdown in Los Angeles two points behind the 23-8-4 Kings (50 points) in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
Programming note: Sharks-Kings coverage begins Thursday at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
LOS ANGELES – No, the San Jose Sharks don’t need a reminder that they haven’t had much success at Staples Center the past few years, as they prepare to face the rival Kings on Thursday night.
“They’re not dumb. They know the records and they know the  playoff scenario,” said Todd McLellan, referring to the teams’ seven-game series last season in which the home team won each time.
“They’re well aware of the series and how it’s gone and what type of game to expect. There aren’t many surprises.”
A quick refresher: the Sharks are just 1-8-2 in their last 11 games in Los Angeles, including that second round playoff series last May, with their lone win coming in a shootout.
On Oct. 30, the Sharks surrendered three separate one-goal leads before Anze Kopitar’s power play overtime goal was the difference in a 4-3 Kings win. Thursday’s game is the second and final of two meetings between the two teams at Staples Center.
Do the Sharks have some sort of mental hurdle to clear?
“There definitely can be a mental thing sometimes. I don’t know if that’s the case here,” Brad Stuart said. “We’ve had some close games. It’s not like we come in here and get blown out every time. It’s just a matter of putting it all together and getting the win and all this goes away. I don’t think it’s that big of a mental thing for us, really.”
“I don’t think any of us are sitting in the room before the game going ‘this is impossible, I just can’t do this.’ That’s not the case for us.”
The Sharks beat the Kings 3-2 in a shootout on Nov. 27 at SAP Center, where Los Angeles has lost its last nine games.
“We’re basically playing each other .500,” McLellan said. “Down the stretch, neither team has found a way to win on the opposition’s ice, and it’s going to end at some point, I would imagine.”
“I think both teams have a lot of respect for each other and I don’t think there’s a mental hurdle at all. … A mental hurdle is when you’re 0-10 against a team and you just don’t believe you can win. And I don’t think they believe that, and I don’t think we believe that.”
The 21-7-6 Sharks (48 points) enter two points behind the 23-8-4 Kings (50 points) in the ultra-competitive Pacific Division. San Jose has one game in hand on Los Angeles, both teams trail the Anaheim Ducks (53 points) and are trying to hold off a charge from the suddenly scorching Vancouver Canucks (46 points).
Against each other, the Sharks-Kings rivalry has developed into one of the best in the NHL, and there’s a distinct possibility that they will meet again in the postseason.
A win at Staples Center could aid the Sharks’ self-assurance if they end up back here in April or May, according to Stuart.
“I guess at some point we have to break the seal and try to get some confidence that we can win in this building,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the problem, but if you can go into a building feeling good about your past experiences, you’re going to have a better chance.”