Thornton: 'We feel like our game is getting better and better'
The Kings are rearranging their forward lines after scoring just two goals total in their two losses in San Jose. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN JOSE – When a team has lost a couple playoff games in a row, change is virtually imminent. Indications are that the Los Angeles Kings are making a few, as they get set to host the San Jose Sharks in Game 5 on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., NBCSN).
According to several reports, the Kings are rearranging their forward lines after scoring just two goals total in their two losses in San Jose. Dustin Brown skated with Trevor Lewis and Dwight King; Anze Kopitar centered Justin Williams and Kyle Clifford; and Dustin Penner skated on the wing of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
The Kings will get their preferred matchups against the Sharks, who will look to become the first road team to win a game in the series.
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“You guys know there aren’t any secrets,” said Todd McLellan, when told the Kings appeared to be making some alterations. “We’ve done that in practice before, too. We’ve experimented with lines. They get last change, they get to determine who they’re going to play, and against who. They’ll play them as they see fit, and we’ll have to react.”
The Kings are still without Jarret Stoll, who is recovering from the hit that put Raffi Torres out of the series with a suspension. Los Angeles has failed to get much production from its bottom two lines, something that becomes all the more glaring without Stoll – who also happened to be the Kings’ best faceoff guy in the regular season (56.0 percent).
If Darryl Sutter sticks with the lines he showed in practice, it’s clearly an attempt to create a more balanced attack and generate some much-needed offense. Among the Kings’ forwards, only Carter has more than two goals in the postseason (4).
“He’s obviously a very good player,” McLellan said of Stoll. “The suspension that Raffi had imposed on him also affects us, so we both lost valuable players in this series. Both teams have players that are playing banged up, and the positive thing for both teams is that no one is really making excuses. Whoever you put out there has to play. That’s the way it’s got to be.”
The Sharks, on the other hand, aren’t likely to make any changes to their lines or lineup after squeaking out 2-1 victories in games three and four.
What they will have to do, unlike the Kings, is win a road game. The Sharks have lost all four they’ve played at Staples Center in 2013 – two in the regular season, and two more in the playoffs. Los Angeles was a league-best 19-4-1 at home in the regular season, and is a perfect 5-0 there in the playoffs.
Los Angeles hasn’t lost at Staples Center since March 23, two months ago (12 in a row). It is 1-4 in the playoffs on the road.
Are the Kings a different team at home?
“I wouldn’t say they have been playing bad on the road. They’re a great team. There’s just something about being at home,” Brent Burns said. “You have your restaurant that you go to, I don’t know how they do it on the road, but we do a team meal on the road. Guys have their own routines and stuff, so sometimes that can throw you a little loop. You have your own little routines at home. I think that helps.”
McLellan said: “The energy that they gather from their fans is a factor, as well. We know that for us to accomplish our goal, we have to take something away from them in their building. This crack is our first chance at it, and it could be our last, so we may as well do what we can right off the bat.”
There are differing opinions in the Sharks’ room as to whether they can carry momentum into Game 5 after a pair of emotional victories in front of one of the loudest crowds in the league.
“I would rather have positive feeling going into a game than vice versa,” Brad Stuart said. “I’d rather go into a game having just played a great one rather than having been outworked our blown out. If that means anything as far as momentum goes, I don’t know. It’s all about putting the last game behind you, good or bad at this time of year, and starting over.”
According to the captain, starting over is what the Sharks and Kings will be doing, as their seven-game series is now a best of three.
“If you win [Game 5] you have momentum, if you lose, you don't. Every day's a new day,” Joe Thornton said. “It's just going to be a brand new game.”