It’s clear how important home-ice advantage is when the Los
Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks meet.
There hasn’t been a regulation win by the visiting team in the
last 15 regular-season matchups, and the Sharks will try to change
that Thursday night.
San Jose (21-7-6) posted the only victory by the visitors in
that 15-game span with a 6-5 shootout win April 5, 2012. The Sharks
are 1-4-3 at Staples Center since a 1-0 victory on New Year’s Day
The home team has captured the last 14 overall meetings,
including all seven games in last season’s Western Conference
semifinal series won by the Kings.
Los Angeles (23-8-4) will be happy to be home, where it has
posted consecutive shutouts by rookie Martin Jones. The Kings will
also be pleased they won’t be tasked with ending a nine-game slide
in San Jose, including playoffs.
Both 2013-14 meetings went past regulation. Anze Kopitar scored
in overtime of the Kings’ 4-3 win Oct. 30 before the Sharks
survived eight rounds of a shootout for a 3-2 victory Nov. 27.
San Jose will see its third Los Angeles goalie if Jones gets his
introduction to this heated Pacific Division rivalry.
Jones improved to 6-0-0 with a 0.82 goals-against average
Tuesday, making 24 saves for his third shutout in five games in a
3-0 win over Edmonton. He’s starting since Jonathan Quick is out
with a groin injury.
”I want to make sure I’m focused and prepared for the games,
but also have some fun as well,” Jones said. ”My job is to work
hard in practice and be ready to play when called upon.”
Quick and Ben Scrivens have faced the Sharks this season.
The Kings got goals from Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and Dustin
Brown to begin this four-game homestand that leads into a four-day
break for the holidays.
“San Jose, we’re very familiar with, they play a hard game,”
King said. “I think it’s nice obviously, right before the break,
we’ve got a lot of hockey so it’s going to be nice to get these
games in and keep ourselves sharp.”
Although the Sharks have had trouble in Los Angeles, they could
be confident after posting their second victory in another city
that is tough on visitors with Tuesday’s 4-2 win at St. Louis.
Joe Pavelski and Matt Irwin had first-period goals and Brent
Burns made it 3-0 in the second before San Jose held off a charge
by the Blues thanks to Martin Havlat’s score with 8:19 left. The
Sharks ended a four-game road slide.
”A win is a win and we’re going to take that,” coach Todd
McLellan said. ”I haven’t seen anybody play a perfect game this
year. We let the momentum get away on us. But in the third period,
I thought we went out there and re-established it.”
Antti Niemi made 20 saves and will likely make his third start
against the Kings this season. Niemi is 1-8-1 in his last 10 starts
at Staples Center, including the postseason.