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

Fresh off a win against the stumbling Oilers, the Kings head to Northern California.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Los Angeles Kings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

HOW TO WATCH

Game Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
TV: NBCSN
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Fear the Fin

Will The Real Los Angeles Kings Please Stand Up?

That headline is a lie. We know who the real Kings are. They’re a sometimes-competent, mostly aimless team who find themselves on the receiving side of lots and lots of losses.

Their win against the Oilers is the kind of win you want to see, though, from a team claiming to be en route to getting its act together and heading towards relevance again. A loss like the one to Tampa Bay should be expected, at this point in the rebuild-on-the-fly that the Kings are trying to execute. The team simply doesn’t have the skill to keep up with them.

The Oilers, on the other hand — outside of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, they’re a team that even the Kings should be able to beat. And the Kings have done well to keep McDavid/Draisaitl in check; they’re more often beat when they’re underestimating the bottom six players. (We see you, Alex Chiasson.)

Even still, the game against the Oilers certainly could have had a much different outcome. The top line got absolutely caved in on possession at even strength. The game was controlled more by the Kings’ middle six, which isn’t something we’ve been able to say often this season.

via HockeyViz.com

The saving grace of that game was that the shots the Oilers were taking came largely from the blue line, and some timely saves from Jonathan Quick.

via Natural Stat Trick

But still: the full-team win—the Kings got contributions from all four lines on the scoresheet—is a building block for future wins.

Just not quite so sure it’s going to work tonight.

Lineup Notes

No changes for the Kings. Is that good? Is that bad? Literally who knows at this point.

The Opposition

If you’re curious as to what’s in store for the Kings tonight, the Sharks just delivered an emphatic win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, despite being shorthanded on defense.

Yes, yes, any team, even the worst of the worst, can pull it together to beat an actual legitimate contender—look no further than the Kings’ win over the Winnipeg Jets for proof of that. But watching San Jose come out with an epic performance against the Lightning wasn’t quite the same as watching the Kings scratch out a win against the Jets or the Golden Knights. This was watching a talented team take another step towards cementing themselves in the playoff race.

Don’t let the Sharks’ third place standing in the Pacific fool you. They’re a team on the rise; since December 1, the Sharks have gone 11-4-2. Their 24 points over that span are the third-most in the league . The 70 goals they’ve scored since December 1 are second-most in the league. Their power play (29.5%) is second. The only point of struggle is the penalty kill (79.5%), which is 21st in the league over the past month-ish, and only marginally better than the Kings. But who needs to worry about the penalty kill when you’re outscoring the rest of your woes?

You want to talk goaltending? Again, since December 1, Martin Jones is tied for second in wins; his 9 wins (shared with Carey Price and Jacob Markstrom) are just behind Marc-Andre Fleury, who has 10. Even though his Goals Against Average (2.73) and save percentage (.904) since December are only just okay as compared to other regular starting goalies, the Sharks are, once again, outscoring any issues, and ultimately, Jones has continued to make crucial saves in close games.

And looking at that same time span, Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson — you know, the same Erik Karlsson who some media members said was terrible and washed up and not fitting in on the Sharks — are one and two in defenseman scoring. Burns has 21 points and Karlsson has 20 points in that stretch.

The Kings got lucky in their previous game against the Sharks; letting go of a two-goal lead isn’t the path to success, and once a game hits overtime, it’s anyone’s guess as to what happens. Can the Kings replicate that success? Maybe. Who knows. We might be in for a ride.

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