After what feels like years of seeing San Jose on opening night, the Kings got a few days’ break before facing off against their northern rivals.
The Sharks and the Kings are quite often put on the same level by hockey pundits: aging teams who haven’t done much in the off-season to correct the weaknesses that have knocked them out of Cup contention.
Aside from the loss of career Shark Patrick Marleau and a few minor pieces, the Sharks come into this season looking largely the same as they did last year, which could be a concern to Sharks fan. Kevin Labanc has already been a bright spot; the second-year NHLer notched two of the Sharks’ three goals in their season opener against the Flyers. He’s benefiting from first line minutes, playing alongside Joes Thornton and Pavelski, two of the most gifted puck movers you could hope to find yourself sharing ice with.
The key this year, and in this game, for the Sharks is going to be getting depth contributions. Mikkel Boedker hasn’t quite been able to live up to the expectations put on him when he was acquired from Arizona. The team needs Tomas Hertl to bounce back from an injury-shortened 2016-17 season, where he saw his production dip to career lows.
The Sharks’ defense still revolves entirely around Brent Burns. (The Sharks’ offense might also revolve around Brent Burns. It’s a little early to tell, but he’s usually good for, oh, a handful of points.)
Martin Jones, unsurprisingly, will be in net. We know him very well. Some of our players very much seem to enjoy scoring on him. Looking at you, Tyler Toffoli.
It’s too early in the season for any great clips of Jones, so here’s an astoundingly boring one instead.
FORE!— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) October 2, 2017
Martin Jones takes us golfing on the latest episode of Off Days. pic.twitter.com/CSGDLx6sPQ
The Kings, meanwhile, fought out a win in a sometimes-tense, emotional game against the Flyers. Opening night could be a sign of what’s to come for the team, in the new systems implemented by John Stevens.
The game was dominated by a defense-heavy focus by the Kings -- for quite some time, they seemed pretty content to try to make it a 1-0 win at the end of the night. But at times, there was much more activity from the defensemen, jumping up into plays and making plays that could be dangerous, but could also result in losing possession and the puck going back the other way. Sacrificing puck possession for taking more high danger chances is something that Stevens and the organization have talked about during the off-season, and we saw some of that on Thursday. If the team sticks to Stevens’ plan, instead of regressing back into old habits, we should see even more of it as lines get comfortable with one another.
Against the Flyers, a team stacked with rookies, that strategy ended up being successful, particularly with Jonathan Quick doing a solid job in net. The Sharks, with a team made up of experienced vets that are more difficult to take advantage of, could be a different story. The Sharks know the Kings very well, and that means they know their weaknesses.
The Kings’ lineup is essentially the same, except that Nic Dowd will draw in for Jonny Brodzinski. In camp, Dowd was moved to the wing, getting him in a position where he could be more active along the boards. It’s entirely possible those two keep rotating in and out until one of them really grabs hold of that position. Everyone else remains the same, including Paul LaDue being the scratch on defense, and Alex Iafallo continuing to skate up on the top line.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Carter - Toffoli
Cammalleri - Kempe - Dowd
Clifford - Shore - Lewis
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Folin
MacDermid - Fantenberg
San Jose Sharks
Labanc - Thornton - Pavelski
Boedker - Couture - Hansen
Donskoi - Hertl - Meier
Karlsson - Tierney - Ward
Martin - Burns
Vlasic - Braun
Dillon - DeMelo
Opposing Preview: Fear the Fin