Preview: Los Angeles Kings (22-10-4) @ San Jose Sharks (18-11-4)
Game Time: 7:00 PM, FS-W
The greatest way to really kick off this holiday weekend is with a good old fashioned rivalry, right? The Kings get to go into their holiday break just a short flight north, taking on the Sharks, who are currently holding down the third seed in the Pacific.
They’ll be doing it without leading scorer Logan Couture, who’s out with a concussion. He has 26 points on the season but hasn’t played since December 15th and there’s no real time table for his return. His absence has shuffled the Sharks’ lines around, pushing Tomas Hertl to the second line center role. Hertl’s bouncing back from a disappointing 2016-17 season, where he was limited to only 49 games. He’s already nearly matched his points total from that year, with 21 points through 33 games. A healthy, contributing Hertl is going to be key for the Sharks to navigate losing Couture, especially if he’s out for an extended period of time.
In net will, of course, be old friend Martin Jones.
Bringing the old mask back for skate today. #SJSharks pic.twitter.com/2cn9ylYaig— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) December 23, 2017
Jones has had an up and down season; he’s performing slightly under his career average, which is a big change from the last time he faced the Kings, when he was having statistically his best campaign since his rookie season. Jones has won just one of his last five decisions and that came against the perpetually-struggling Carolina Hurricanes. He’s allowed four goals in each of those games; in the start before that, he allowed five. And it’s not like he hasn’t been getting scoring support from his team, either — in Jones’ last five starts, the Sharks have scored 15 goals.
Jones has traditionally done fairly well against his old team; the last time the Kings and Sharks met, he put on a masterful performance to the tune of a 0.963 save percentage and only one goal against. So, for the Kings at least, a slumping Martin Jones could be a great thing to take advantage of.
This game will be the meeting of the league’s best penalty kills, with full season averages having the Kings and Sharks sitting at first and second in the league. If you look at stats since just the start of December, though, both teams have struggled. In fact, they’re seventeenth (Sharks, 81.3%) and eighteenth (Kings, 80%) when down a man.
That eighteenth-ranked penalty kill may have its work cut out for it, though, since through the start of December, the Sharks have had the best power play in the league (34.3%). Don’t look to the Kings’ power play to be a difference maker, though; they’re thirtieth since December 1 (a horrific 9.1%).
The lineup for the Kings should be the same as it was against the Avalanche. Kyle Clifford, previously deemed to be “not 100% but available to play anyway” by the coaches, was put back on injured reserve today, so make that assessment of his health to be somewhere significantly less than 100%.
And we’ve got some goalie intrigue, as Jack Campbell was recalled from Ontario today on an emergency basis. (Campbell played last night in San Diego, where the Reign lost 4-3 to the Gulls in overtime.) Both Quick and Kuemper practiced this morning, so it’s possible that one of them is feeling ill, necessitating Campbell to be around as insurance.
Kings recall Jack Campbell on an emergency basis. Kyle Clifford placed back on IR, retroactive to December 16.— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) December 24, 2017
Campbell is not expected to suit up. This is a precautionary recall. Both Quick and Kuemper are expected to dress tonight.— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) December 24, 2017
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Kempe - Toffoli
Gaborik - Shore - Lewis
Andreoff - Mitchell - Brodzinski
Muzzin - Doughty
MacDermid - Martinez
Forbort - Fantenberg
San Jose Sharks
Hansen - Thornton - Pavelski
Karlsson - Hertl - Labanc
Meier - Tierney - Donskoi
Sorensen - Ward - Boedker
Dillon - Burns
Vlasic - Braun
Ryan - DeMelo
Opposing Preview: Fear the Fin