Doesn’t it seem like we’ve seen this matchup a hundred times already? I love you, Martin Jones, but I think I’m ready for some more distance.
Fortunately, this is the last meeting of the Sharks and Kings for the regular season, so I can go back to having a slightly less fraught sort of love for Jones, at least for now. Tonight, though, we’re still enemies.
The Kings are 2-2 against the Sharks this season and are looking to cap off the season series with a win. Anze Kopitar returns tonight from an illness, putting the lines back into a far more familiar shape. With no insight into the defense from practice, it’s probably safe to assume that Brayden McNabb will continue to be a scratch this evening.
Up front is the same story as it’s been all season: scoring, where are you?
Kyle Clifford scored the slickest goal I’ve ever seen from him against Tampa Bay, which stood as the only tally for the Kings in that game.
You spin me right round, baby— #LAKings (@LAKings) January 16, 2017
Right round, like a Clifford, baby
Right round, round round pic.twitter.com/k3mwj85LZo
It seems like just when the offense has figured itself out -- five goals against the Blues, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown finding the back of the net against the Jets, that ridiculous game against the Stars -- it goes dry again for no real reason. The Lightning were more of a test than they should have been, given the toll injuries have taken on their lineup this year, and the declining performance of Ben Bishop. The Sharks are a team that doesn’t lack for good defense, so finding that offensive consistency will be key tonight.
For the Sharks, they’ll be without Logan Couture tonight as he’s dealing with an illness and didn’t make the trip down to LA. Melker Karlsson has been elevated to the top line with Joes Thornton and Pavelski. Someone please keep track of how many times the announcing team accidentally says Erik Karlsson. The Swede’s in his third year in the NHL and has shown that he can play up and down the lineup. Karlsson could easily benefit from playing to Thornton’s left; he’s exactly the kind of guy a team might forget to cover at the net, leaving him wide open for a pass from one of the game’s most gifted playmakers.
Speaking of Thornton, he’s one point away from tying Johnny Bucyk at 24th all-time in points. He’s sitting on 1,368 right now. Keeping Thornton off the scoreboard is always a priority, given just how much success he seems to find against the Kings. In 79 regular season games against Los Angeles, Thornton has 74 points (16G, 58A). The only team he’s seen more success against has been the Coyotes, so extrapolate from that as you wish.
One player we probably don’t have to worry about keeping off the scoresheet is Martin Jones. He’s got two career assists, both from when he was with the Kings, and his last attempt at scoring a goal did not go so well:
Jones is, however, 5-2-2 against the Kings with a fairly impressive .923 save percentage. He might not be scoring his own goals anytime soon, but the Kings need to keep the pressure up to get anything past him.
With Tyler Toffoli still out, the role of Former Roommate of Martin Jones to Enjoy Scoring Against Him officially falls to Tanner Pearson tonight. Here’s looking at you, kid.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Gaborik - Kopitar - Lewis
Pearson - Carter - Brown
King - Dowd - Setoguchi
Clifford - Shore - Nolan
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
Gravel - Greene
San Jose Sharks
Karlsson - Thornton - Pavelski
Labanc - Marleau - Boedker
Meier - Tierney - Ward
Haley - Carpenter - Wingels
Martin - Burns
Vlasic - Braun
Dillon - Schlemko
Opposing Preview: Fear the Fin