Preview, Game Day #6: Los Angeles Kings @ San Jose Sharks
"I'm excited to play the San Jose Sharks in October." said literally no one ever.
Los Angeles Kings @ San Jose Sharks (SAP Center) (yes their arena is really called that)
Time: 7:30 Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West, Comcast Sportsnet California
Enemy Reading: Fear the Fin
Missed this but it looks like it's Enroth in net tonight as he was the first guy off the ice after the morning skate-
Thanks to Big Jewels Fan Nut for pointing this out!
Scratched: Weal, Injured: King, Greene
San Jose Sharks
Injured: Couture, Martin
- So here's two teams that started the season against each other (in a game we'd all like to forget) and have had almost exactly opposite trajectories so far; the Sharks had a great start, winning their first four in a row, but have since dropped their last two, while the Kings began their year losing three straight, but have since rebounded to win their last two games.
- As Nick ably covered yesterday, the 2-3-0 homestand that the Kings opened their season with wasn't nearly as bad as it looked. While of course you'd like to come away from it with more than 4 points, LA remained as dominant as ever in puck possession, and actually were even better than they've been in the previous few years when it comes to scoring chances and high-danger chances. According to War On Ice, the Kings had a ridiculous 63.4% of all 5-on-5 scoring chances through their first five games; that's almost six points better than 2nd place St. Louis' 57.7%, and it's a full ten points above San Jose's 53.4% (which is still good for fourth in the league so far).
- In high-danger chances, the Kings fare even better with 65.8%, again tops in the league. San Jose, too, does much better though, as their 64.4% is 2nd and right on the Kings' heels. Of course, it should go without saying that we're dealing with very tiny sample sizes here, but these are all encouraging numbers for both of these California teams.
- Just for giggles, how's that third California hockey club doing in these stats? Uh, not good. The Ducks' 45.5% of high-danger chances is good for a cool 22nd in the league; remarkably, they have the exact same percentage of normal scoring chances at 45.5%, but that ranks them even worse at 27th. Again, it's early and has little to do with this game, but there's nothing wrong with pausing to laugh at the Ducks right? Right.
- So back to the Sharks: after a good start to their year, things kind of fell apart in their three-game swing through the New York metropolitan area. It began with San Jose needing a shootout to scrape past the lowly Devils, but things didn't get really ugly until they made it into New York proper. They were beaten by the neighboring Islanders & Rangers by a combined score of 10-3, as the two clubs handed the Sharks their first two losses of the season. They've had a couple days off now to return home and lick their wounds, both figurative and literal. They're still missing Paul Martin and Logan Couture, two key pieces, due to injury. Couture's absence greatly weakens their forward depth, but the loss of their big off-season acquisition (and the man that immediately shored up their back end) Martin likely looms even larger.
- Meanwhile, the Kings salvaged their second win of what had been shaping up to be a disastrous homestand, defeating the possession-starved Avalanche (their 39.3% Corsi at evens so far is easily the worst in the league) on Sunday by a slim 2-1 margin. Of course, having a huge advantage in puck possession but just barely squeaking out a victory is nothing new to this team, but it would be nice to see the Kings score a few more goals sooner rather than later. Perhaps the Sharks, with their depleted defensive depth and numerous youngsters, are a team for the Kings to break out against. Probably not. But maybe!
- Standing in their way of doing so is of course ex-King backup Martin Jones, who even after allowing four goals on 28 shots to the Rangers on Monday is still sporting a ridiculous .957 sv% (it was at something like .980 entering Monday's game!). Obviously that will continue to come down in the long-term, which means nothing for us here tonight in one game. Let's all just cross our fingers and hope Monday was just the start of a continuous Jones plunge back down through the atmosphere, burning up in orbit and disintegrating into a terrible goaltender!
- The Sharks made a number of roster changes coming out of their New York massacre. Nikolay Goodobin, who had been featuring on the top line with the two Joes until about midway through the Rangers game, was sent down to the AHL while face-punching forward Michael Haley was called up. He's had a hot start with the Barracuda this year, scoring 4 goals and 2 assists. He's also 29 years old and has a career line of two goals, one assist, and 174 penalty minutes in 56 career NHL games (spread among, oddly enough, the Islanders, Rangers, and Sharks), so I'm somehow doubting that carries over into the big leagues. Haley will probably find either Clifford or Nolan as a dance partner tonight, and there's always the chance Mike Brown fights somebody too, so let's all hear it for pointless brain damage!
- The other big move was along the blue line, as young defenseman Dylan DeMelo was sent down, replaced by other young defenseman Mirco Mueller. Mueller, you may recall, played nearly the entire season with the Sharks last year, only to find himself starting in the AHL this time around. That didn't last long, however, and Mueller should make his 15-16 regular season debut for the Sharks on the third pairing tonight.
- PREDICTION: It's still the Kings against the Sharks.....in October.....so depth issues aside, the Sharks will be good. But the Kings will be slightly better. 4-3 win for the Kings in overtime.