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Game Day Preview #17, San Jose Sharks @ Los Angeles Kings

Let’s try something new by not allowing the first goal?

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks Andrew Villa-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: San Jose Sharks (9-6-0) @ Los Angeles Kings (11-3-2)

Game Time: 7:30 PM, FS-W

Nothing like a match-up with a divisional rival to help wash away the bad taste in your mouth you were probably left with after the last game against the Lightning. An incredibly slow start for the Kings doomed them against a team visiting on the second night of a back-to-back. Will they be doomed to make the same mistakes again?

The Sharks played in San Jose last night against the Canucks and came away with a 5-0 win. It’s a lopsided stat line, but all of the goals were fairly weird. The Sharks’ first goal was scored just 48 seconds in by Tomas Hertl, which makes it the second-earliest game-winner in franchise history. Two goals were shorthanded and the third was from a penalty shot awarded during a Canucks short-handed chance. A fourth goal was scored into an empty net. The Sharks scored three goals in around 90 seconds in the closing minutes of the third period. For most of the game, Hertl’s goal was the only thing on the scoreboard. A 5-0 shutout should always raise some eyebrows, but on that one, there’s a little more to it than meets the eye.

The Sharks have struggled to start their season, whether it’s been pucks in the other net (dead last in the league with 22 even strength goals; 28th in the league in all situations scoring with 47), pucks in their net (Martin Jones, numerically, is having a great year -- .922 Sv%, 2.24 GAA, his best numbers as a starter and overall best numbers since his first season in Los Angeles -- but has had some rough nights, though the debate goes on as to whether that should be pinned on Jones, or on the team assembled in front of him), or guys who should put pucks in nets but aren’t (Brent Burns, 60 shots, zero goals, seven assists).

Joe Pavelski leads the team in points (14) and goals (10); the next closest goal scorer is Joonas Donskoi, with five. For the Sharks, they’ve been getting a good amount of depth scoring, which has to be a positive for them, but Burns being kept out of the goal column has to be a huge source of frustration for them.

And their once dominant power play is struggling, too, sitting at 19th in the league. (That’s a few spots behind the Kings.) And with the teams being one and two on the penalty kill, don’t look for special teams to be what changes the course of this game. Even strength scoring, something the Kings have generally excelled at this season (A. what a strange feeling; B. 35 goals at 5v5, eighth in the league) is going to be more important than ever.

The last time these teams met, the Kings came away with a 4-1 win, with Anze Kopitar having a multi-point night and Martin Jones taking one of his few losses against the Kings (he’s 6-3-2 against the Kings in his career). It was so early in the season that we didn’t have as much of a picture of who the Kings are as we do now. (“What’s an Alex Iafallo,” a lot of us were probably still saying.) We’ve got a more clear picture now, and it’s that of a much stronger, more motivated team than years before -- although still a team that has some work to do, if that game against the Lightning is any indication.

Adrian Kempe, a late scratch against the Lightning due to illness, looks set to play tonight, back in his normal spot between Pearson and Toffoli. The Mike Amadio, Second Line Center experiment ended quickly in the previous game, with John Stevens almost immediately making line adjustments. Before the Lightning game, it looked like Amadio might have been set to be a healthy scratch that night; based on this morning’s skate, Amadio will sit tonight, instead, with Kempe back in the lineup.

After a game that was essentially a clinic by the Lightning to reveal the Kings’ shortcomings, the Kings are back on more familiar territory with a game against their long-time rivals. With the Kings frequently having allowed the first goal(s) in recent games, I’m just going to keep writing “get out to a strong start” from now until whenever they understand the message.

Get out to a strong start.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Kempe - Toffoli
Andreoff - Shore - Lewis
Cammalleri - Laich - Dowd

Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
MacDermid - Fantenberg

Quick
(Kuemper)

San Jose Sharks

Donskoi - Thornton - Pavelski
Karlsson - Couture - Hertl
Meier - Tierney - Boedker
Hansen - Goodrow - Ward

Ryan - Burns
Vlasic - Braun
Dillon - Heed

Jones
(Dell)

Opposing Preview: Fear the Fin