While the Los Angeles Kings appear to have righted themselves since a season-opening loss to San Jose, the Sharks have been veering off course following a splendid start.
The Sharks hope a return home triggers a return to early season form when the Pacific Division rivals face off again Thursday.
A 5-1 road win over the Kings on opening night fueled a 4-0-0 start for San Jose (4-2-0) under new coach Peter DeBoer, but the Sharks have since been outscored 10-3 in consecutive defeats to the New York Islanders and Rangers that concluded a four-game trip.
An offense that produced 16 goals through the first five games managed 22 shots – 9.5 less than its season average – against Rangers backup goaltender Antti Raanta in Monday’s 4-0 loss. Counterpart Martin Jones stopped just 24 of 28 shots after posting a 0.49 goals-against average in winning his first four starts with the Sharks.
”We lost pretty much every facet of the game,” DeBoer said. ”Lost races to pucks, lost battles, lost special teams (battles). There’s a price to pay to win and the other team was more willing to pay that price than us so we got what we deserved.”
San Jose had no such issues in its Oct. 7 visit to Staples Center, where it outshot the Kings 32-20 and beat Jonathan Quick for five unanswered goals after Los Angeles’ Nick Shore scored 1:49 in.
The loss was one of three straight for Los Angeles (2-3-0) during a five-game homestand, but it’s rebounded with consecutive 2-1 victories over Minnesota and Colorado to close out the residency.
Improved play from Quick has been essential to the resurgence. After registering a 3.70 GAA and .861 save percentage in the three losses, the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy recipient turned back 47 of 49 chances in the wins.
Tyler Toffoli aided the cause with his third goal in four games in Sunday’s triumph over the Avalanche, in which Marian Gaborik registered his first of the season. The Kings had just two goals during their losing streak.
”I just think we’re playing a lot faster,” Toffoli said. ”We’re playing a lot faster in our own zone, using our speed breaking out and coming through the neutral zone, and finishing our plays.”
Los Angeles continues to struggle on the power play, though, ranking 29th in the league with a 1 for 21 success rate. The Kings were 0 for 6 with the man advantage while the Sharks received power-play scores from Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl in the previous meeting.
San Jose hasn’t produced a power-play goal in three straight games coinciding with Logan Couture’s absence. The talented center is expected to miss four to six weeks after breaking his right fibula in practice last Thursday. The defense has been hit with a significant loss as well with veteran Paul Martin having missed the two defeats with a lower-body injury.
Including their comeback from a 3-0 deficit in a 2014 first-round series, the Kings have won seven of the teams’ past 10 matchups. They were dealt a 4-2 loss in their lone visit to San Jose last season as Couture scored twice, but Quick stopped 31 shots in a 2-1 victory at Levi’s Stadium on Feb. 21.