Programming note: Coverage of Game 6 between the Sharks and Kings begins tonight at 6:30 on Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live. (Channel locations)
LOS ANGELES – Sharks goalie Alex Stalock will make his first career playoff start on Monday night, while defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic did not make the trip and will not play due to an upper body injury suffered on Saturday. The Sharks will try for a third time to close out the Kings in Monday night’s Game 6 at Staples Center, and lead the best-of-seven first round series, three games to two.
Stalock has come on in relief of Niemi in each of the last two games, stopping all 26 shots he’s faced, including 22 in Game 5.
That should help.
“I think so, playing in both rinks, too,” Stalock said. “Getting a feel for the series, the speed and intensity. Obviously, get a chance to start tonight, and it will be a lot of fun.”
“It’s a chance to close out the series, and that’s the ultimate goal.”
Not only are Stalock’s number’s better than Niemi’s, he’s also a deft puck-handler. That could help the Sharks break out of their own zone and get in on the forecheck more aggressively, something that they struggled with in the 3-0 loss in Game 5.
“I think you have to rewind the video 200 feet away from the forecheck into our zone, first,” McLellan said. “If you’re not generating speed and you’re not supporting each other coming out of your end, you never have the five pieces involved in the forecheck.”
Stalock had one start against the Kings in the regular season, stopping 20 of 21 shots in a 1-0 loss in which Jonathan Quick recorded a 23-save shutout on Jan. 27 at SAP Center.
While the playoff series was a high-scoring affair for the first four games, Stalock expects Game 6 to more resemble the chess match that the Sharks and the Kings typically play.
“It’s a little different with how we thought it was going to play out with the goal-scoring and the offense," Stalock said. “It’s going to get back to the games that we’ve played during the year. Ultimately, we know how they’re going to play, and the start is crucial tonight."
Vlasic, meanwhile, is out indefinitely, as McLellan offered no time frame for the defenseman’s return. Matt Irwin will draw in for the first time in the series.
“It’s a loss to our hockey club, but it’s one we can overcome,” McLellan said. “Good teams that have opportunities to win and move on overcome adversity. This is one of those situations.”
Losing Vlasic won’t alter the game plan.
McLellan said: “If we approach the game with a dramatic change in strategy because of Marc-Edouard not being involved, I think that would be a grave mistake. We have to play our game. We played it throughout the year with Matt Irwin in the lineup, and that will have to continue.”