Shot Attacks vs. SJ: Game #50 Preview

Kings Roster Notes: (IN) Shifty trickster Andrei Loktionov is still setting the world on with his smile. The lines will remain the same as the ones that faced the Bruins. (OUT) Parse (hip), Sturm (knee tendinitis)

Sharks Roster Notes: (IN) Wellwood and Eager are recent additions via waiver pickup and trade. Alex Stalock was summoned as a temporary backup for Niemi. Ryane Clowe is backe from injurie. (OUT) Antero Niittymaki, Torrey Mitchell (lower body); Scott Nichol is still serving a suspension.

Everyone knows this is a 4-point game: trot out all your must-win cliches, because they're all true. Stats-wise, this is an interesting matchup as well. The Sharks lead the league in shots per game (34.3), while the Kings are second best in shots against (27.5). Although I tend to think of it as a clash between defensive and offensive-minded teams, the Kings have actually managed to score slightly more goals per game (2.78 vs. 2.73). While they are better at even strength, the Sharks score a heck of a lot more on the power play, where they are 4th in the NHL (22.7%). Their penalty-killing is roughly equal. So what happened when these teams met previously?

1. In a 6-3 loss on Nov. 15th, the Kings outshot the Sharks 35-34. Bernier's performance was shaky compared to Niittymaki's, but the rest of the team got caught up in a fast-rush, wide open style. They were still in it until they gave up 3 goals and killed only 1 of 3 (!) power plays in the third. Yikes.

2.  In a 4-0 win on Dec. 27th, the Kings outshot the Sharks 37-24, jumping out on the attack early -- the shot differential was 16-6 in the first period alone.  The Kings finally got past Niemi in the third and broke it open.  Neither team scored on three power play chances apeice.

3. In a 1-0 loss on Jan. 1st, the Kings outshot the Sharks 29-19. Once again, neither team scored on the power play. Though they controlled the play for large stretches, they didn't get a goal or a win.

After giving up an uncharacteristic number of shots in the November game, the Kings have done a pretty good job limiting the Sharks' offense. The keys tonight will be to keep up their usual defensive play while getting better at converting those golden chances themselves. (--Dept. of the Obvious.)

Antti Niemi has allowed only 8 goals in the Sharks' four game win streak. Jonathan Quick shut out the Bruins and looks back on his game. Let the battles commence.