Sulking through a three-game losing streak and, more broadly, a step-forward-step-back season, the Kings will confront a well-known enemy in confines very familiar to their coach Todd McLellan.
They’ll dive into the Shark Tank in San Jose Friday, where McLellan guided the Sharks from 2008 to 2015. While he said there were some salutations and fist-bumps to go around, McLellan largely viewed the visit as just another game.
“I’ve been gone from there for so long. I have a lot of friends there and stuff like that, and there’s always my individual memories. But it doesn’t do much for me going back into that building,” McLellan said.
There are four players remaining from his tenure: forwards Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and winger Matt Nieto, who was the lone player of the group to leave and return.
“Great players, good people, but Kopi and Kempe and Lizotte and those guys are really important right now, not so much Cootch and Pickles and those guys,” McLellan said.
Under both McLellan and his successor, Pete DeBoer, the Sharks were a model organization, in large part due to the shrewd stewardship of General Manager Doug Wilson. Wilson spent nearly 20 years as San Jose’s top executive but gave way to Mike Grier, the NHL’s first Black GM, before this season.
Having gained momentum that culminated in a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016 and a run to the conference finals in 2019, much of the Sharks’ undoing over recent years pertained to poor goaltending. At times this season, the Kings could certainly relate to those struggles.
The Kings rank dead last in save percentage with a meager .882 mark. That burden has been shared by Jonathan Quick (.892) and Cal Petersen (.876). McLellan said that both goalies had made some outstanding saves and that the skaters in front of them needed to limit the errors that led to high-danger scoring opportunities.
“I would say there’s concern,” McLellan said. “But we’ve got to, as a group, work on that save percentage. Not just the goaltenders, but as a group we’ve got to bring that number up.”
Yet McLellan also acknowledged –– and lamented –– the back-breaking nature of two goals that figured significantly into the Kings’ last two losses. They were both ill-timed and, from a goaltender’s perspective, preventable.
Against Seattle Saturday, the Kings took a 2-1 lead and then ceded an equalizer that beat Petersen cleanly between his pads just 18 seconds later, ultimately leading to an overtime loss. The New York Rangers produced a similar momentum swing Tuesday. After the Kings tied the game, the Rangers tallied less than a minute later off an ostensibly harmless short-side shot that Petersen would undoubtedly love to have back.
Although the Sharks have continued to flounder this season –– they’re the only team other than the Kings to have played 22 games but have seven fewer points to slot them near the Pacific Division cellar –– they’ve presented a challenge historically for the Kings through both high seas and low tide.
The two clubs have split their past six meetings, but San Jose had taken eight of the prior nine matchups. The Sharks have won the lion’s share of regular-season showdowns, but the Kings prevailed in two of three playoff series, including a rally from an 0-3 deficit in 2014 that propelled them to a Stanley Cup that was won along the razor’s edge.Related Articles
Los Angeles Kings |
Kings’ home winning streak ends as Rangers rally
Kings return home to face star-studded Rangers
Kings fall to Kraken in overtime
Canucks slow Kings’ momentum behind Boeser, Pettersson
Kings head to Pacific Northwest for back-to-back set
On the injury front, defenseman Sean Durzi has continued to make progress in his recovery after missing the past two games and could return Friday. Winger Alex Iafallo recently shed his walking boot and has resumed skating on his own in a limited capacity as he recovers from a lower-body injury.
For San Jose and defenseman Erik Karlsson, the past three campaigns were ones to forget. While the Sharks have continued to lose, Karlsson has skyrocketed his production and is on pace for a career season, and what a career he has had.
Karlsson, 32, has been compared to Swedish standouts like Borje Salming, who died at 71 Thursday, and Nicklas Lidstrom, who captured seven of the 10 Norris Trophies won by a Swede. Karlsson garnered the honor twice, in addition to being a four-time finalist. Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman was the most recent winner from the Nordic nation.
Karlsson leads both San Jose and all NHL defensemen in scoring this season with 30 points in 22 games, the 10th time in NHL history that a rearguard has notched 30 points on more in his first 22 outings. He has flourished anew despite the departure of another offensive-minded blue-liner, Brents Burns, who was traded to Carolina last summer after 11 campaigns as a Shark.
Kings at San Jose
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: SAP Center
TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/IHeartRadio