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Game Day Preview #44, San Jose Sharks @ Los Angeles Kings

At least there probably won’t be three fights in six seconds of game time. Right?

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: San Jose Sharks (22-13-6) @ Los Angeles Kings (24-14-5)

Game Time: 1:00 PM, FS-W / NHL Network

What better way to bounce back from a disappointing loss to an in-state rival than by … facing another in-state rival? What gives, schedule makers? Where’s our feel-good pre-scheduled rout of the Buffalo Sabres or something? Instead, we get a visit from the Sharks, who handed the Kings their first shutout this season with a 2-0 blanking before the Christmas break.

So it’s a chance for revenge for that last game, where the Kings simply couldn’t get anything particularly dangerous through to the net.

via hockeyviz.com

And a chance for the Kings to right the ship now, because: here comes Calgary.

The Flames are entering their bye week on a seven-game winning streak, which is how they snuck up to take over second in the Pacific without anyone noticing. If the Kings want to get back into that second seed slot, now’s the time to start banking points.

The Kings only have one win since the start of the new year, and that came thanks to a struggling Oilers team and the major penalty to Patrick Maroon. The four wins in the last ten games for the Kings have all come against non-playoff teams (Edmonton, Vancouver, Colorado, and Philadelphia). The voices at the beginning of the season that said “the Kings can’t sustain this success” are piping up again, and the numbers are backing them up.

via @chartinghockey’s data viz

So this game — already important for essentially being a four-point game — takes on additional importance, when you consider how poorly the Kings have played recently against teams that aspire to the Stanley Cup. San Jose’s playoff positioning slipped during their bye week, but they’re only three points behind LA right now. They were fifteen seconds away from walking away with zero points on Saturday in a high-scoring affair against the Coyotes, but a well-timed goal from Joonas Donskoi and a strong overtime session gave them a win and two points. It wasn’t a pretty win, but the Sharks found a way to win, which is something the Kings haven’t been doing recently.

Lines for both teams are just suggestions. Jonny Brodzinski was recalled for the Kings and could skate tonight, although he skated in place of Trevor Lewis, who had a maintenance day. The fourth line potentials are a jumbled mess, so we’re just taking a guess. We’ll probably be wrong. It’s fine. Jake Muzzin is making progress and could be in, though notes from practice seem skeptical.

For the Sharks, their fourth line is a bit in flux, with Marcus Sorensen being sent back to the Barracuda. Joel Ward appears to be who will draw back in for him. On defense, the big news out of San Jose is that veteran defender Paul Martin has been placed on waivers. He performed admirably alongside Brent Burns last season and really exemplified San Jose’s excellence at blocking and deflecting shots. But Martin missed most of the season with an injury, and San Jose solidified their pairings without him, leaving no real defined role for him going forward. (Martin’s $4.85m contract that still has one more year on it is going to probably scare away any suitors who were, perhaps, oh, I don’t know, looking for veteran depth defense.)

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Kempe - Toffoli
Andreoff - Shore - Lewis
Gaborik - Mitchell - Jokinen

Gravel - Doughty
MacDermid - Martinez
Forbort - Folin

Quick
(Kuemper)

San Jose Sharks

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

Dillon - Burns
Vlasic - Braun
Ryan - Heed

Jones
(Dell)

Opposing Preview: Fear the Fin