Game Preview: Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks

The Los Angeles Kings are going to begin 2017 the same way they ended 2016: playing the San Jose Sharks.

They wouldn’t have it any other way. Regional proximity combined with epic playoff meetings in recent years has made this one of the top rivalries in the NHL.

Decades ago, the idea of a matchup between two California teams having the type of cache to draw all eyes around the league towards their battles would sound utterly implausible.

Expansion out West has laid the seeds of a blooming antagonism between two franchises who’ve both seen their fair share of success.

The Kings have been in Los Angeles since 1967, and shared the Golden State with the Oakland Seals (later California Golden Seals) until 1976, when the Seals moved to Cleveland to become the Barons.

The Kings would have to wait a decade and a half before they had new in-state contemporaries, as the Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks (originally called the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim after the Emilio Estevez cinematic masterpiece) joined the league as expansion franchises in the early 1990s.

Fast-forward to 2016 and the three franchises have a combined 5 Stanley Cup appearances and 3 Stanley Cup championships since the 1993-1994 season.

The California hockey experiment has been a resounding success, driven largely by the compelling NorCal-SoCal saga between the Kings and the Sharks.

Since 2011, the Kings and Sharks have met in 4 playoff series in 6 seasons. 2 of those series have gone to game 7, with the Kings prevailing each time.

The Sharks got the better of them in both 2011 and 2016, but while the all-time playoff series scoreboard stands at 2-2, the way the Kings erased that 3-0 deficit to beat the Sharks in the first round of the 2014 playoffs still lingers as a painful memory in the Bay Area.

The energy seems to be turned up a notch whenever these adversaries meet, and the Kings were able to secure a 3-2 win on December 31 in Los Angeles over the Sharks.

Jeff Carter netted what ultimately became the game winning goal in the 3rd period. It was his 20th goal of the season, making it the 10th straight season he has reached that milestone, and the 11th time in his 12 NHL seasons. Tanner Pearson added a goal and an assist, while Alec Martinez tallied 2 assists.

The Kings will look to start off the New Year by gaining some ground on the Pacific Division-leading Sharks and leaving a psychological mark with two-straight wins over their rival.

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