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Posted On Wednesday, 04.30.2014 / 3:20 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Sharks-Kings series blog

Sharks turning back to Niemi; Vlasic out for Game 7

SAN JOSE -- After a one-game break, San Jose Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi will return to the starting lineup Wednesday at SAP Center for Game 7 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, PRIME, CSN-CA).

Backup Alex Stalock replaced Niemi in Game 6 and made his first start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a 4-1 loss to Los Angeles at Staples Center. Niemi was pulled for Stalock early in the third period of Game 4 and early in the second of Game 5.

"I think the break was good for [Niemi]," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after an optional morning skate. "He got a chance to work on some things in his game that the goaltending coach wanted to work on. He got a chance to rest. Our team did need a change heading into Game 6 into L.A. Unfortunately, we had to pull him twice, but that wasn't all on Nemo's shoulders. It's pretty evident and obvious, I hope I've made that clear. But moving forward with Nemo, we want to give Nemo an opportunity."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.29.2014 / 7:05 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Sharks-Kings series blog

Sharks still confident as they prepare for Game 7

SAN JOSE -- Three years ago, the San Jose Sharks were one loss away from the making the wrong kind of Stanley Cup Playoff history.

The Sharks took a 3-0 lead in their second-round series against the Detroit Red Wings, but the Red Wings won the next three, forcing a Game 7 at San Jose. The Sharks won 3-2 and avoided becoming the fourth team in NHL history to lose a best-of-7 series after taking a 3-0 lead.

The Sharks find themselves in a similar situation this spring after bolting to a 3-0 lead then losing three straight to the Los Angeles Kings in their Western Conference First Round series. Game 7 is Wednesday night at SAP Center (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, PRIME, CSN-CA), and the Sharks are drawing heavily on their 2011 experience against the Red Wings


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Posted On Tuesday, 04.29.2014 / 6:31 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Sharks-Kings series blog

Sharks' Vlasic sits out practice with upper-body injury

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who missed Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round series against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday with an upper-body injury, did not practice Tuesday.

Vlasic's availability for Game 7 on Wednesday at SAP Center remains in doubt (10 p.m. ET; CBC, RDS2, NBCSN, PRIME, CSN-CA).

"[Vlasic is] getting treatments, and when he's better, he'll play," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Tuesday.


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Posted On Saturday, 04.26.2014 / 4:44 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Sharks-Kings series blog

Kings need rare win at San Jose to stay alive

SAN JOSE -- The Los Angeles Kings survived one win-or-go-home game in their best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series against the San Jose Sharks, staying alive with a 6-3 victory Thursday at Staples Center.

Now the Kings, who trail 3-1 in the series, will try to survive Game 5 on Saturday at SAP Center (10 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, RDS2, FS-W, CSN-CA), a place Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter called "the cage" after his team's victory.

The cage has not been kind to the Kings. They're lost five straight playoff games at SAP, three last year in their second-round victory and two this year. Including regular-season games, they've played 12 games at San Jose since the start of the 2011-12 season and have one victory (a 1-0 shutout Jan. 27 by goaltender Jonathan Quick).

"It's tough to win in this building," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said after the morning skate. "We know what we have to do, and we know how to beat this team. The bottom line is we need to have a good start like always. We want to get that first goal, and we've been letting them back in the game by letting them get one next. We need to build on that lead and push them out of the game."

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Posted On Sunday, 04.20.2014 / 4:47 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Sharks-Kings series blog

Kings look for better start vs. Sharks in Game 2

SAN JOSE -- For San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan, the third period of his team's 6-3 win Thursday night against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series turned out to be a valuable "teaching tool."

The Sharks built a 5-0 lead through two periods, then allowed three straight goals in the third before Brent Burns scored an empty-net goal. The Sharks were reminded what could happen Sunday night in Game 2 if they lose their aggressiveness against the Kings.

"If you play on your heels, you stand back, you give them time and space and the ability to generate speed and get their forecheck going, you have no chance of winning," McLellan said after the Sharks' morning skate at SAP Center."


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Posted On Saturday, 04.19.2014 / 4:54 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Sharks-Kings series blog

Sharks' Brown relishes physical play, role as agitator

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks forward Mike Brown said it was a case of hit or be hit early in the first period of Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

After firing a shot at goaltender Jonathan Quick from close range on a rush, Brown saw Kings defenseman Slava Voynov headed his way at full speed, trying to cut him off.

So Brown did what came natural. He put his left shoulder into Voynov and sent him flying into Quick. Voynov wound up on the ice and Quick wound up sprawled in the back of his net, sparking a scrum.

"It's just like bowling," Brown said wryly. "Strike's better than a spare."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.17.2014 / 4:38 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Sharks-Kings series blog

Niemi named Game 1 starter for Sharks

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan finally made it official after the morning skate Thursday at SAP Center. Goaltender Antti Niemi will start Thursday night for the Sharks against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, FS-W, CSN-CA).

"He's our go-to guy," said McLellan, explaining his choice of Niemi over Alex Stalock. "He's been our go-to guy for four years. He's our go-to guy in Game 1. I can tell you this, there wasn't near the amount of debate with the four of us in the coaches' room as there was with a whole bunch of you outside the coaches' room. But it was fun."

Niemi, who won the Stanley Cup in 2010 with the Chicago Blackhawks, has struggled at times this season, but he had one of his best games on April 3 against Los Angeles, making 26 saves in a 2-1 victory at SAP Center.

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.16.2014 / 5:36 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Sharks-Kings series blog

Sharks plan to break out greatest hits against Kings

SAN JOSE -- The last time the San Jose Sharks faced the Los Angeles Kings, they had a franchise-record 52 hits and captured a 2-1 victory April 3 at SAP Center.

The Sharks matched the Kings' physicality and actually gave more than they took that night, doling out 20 more hits than Los Angeles.

When the Sharks open the Stanley Cup Playoffs against Los Angeles on Thursday at SAP Center in Game 1 of their Western Conference First Round series (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, FS-W, CSN-CA), they know the hits have to keep coming.

"We have to be physical against this team," Sharks defenseman Jason Demers said Wednesday after practice. "They're a bigger team, but also we have size and can skate with them. I think we've just got to show we can push back too. Obviously we can't get carried away and take too many penalties because of their very good power play. We're emphasizing finishing our checks and just making it a hard series.

"A lot of people are saying it's going to go long, so might as well make it a long, hard series on them and make them earn everything they get."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.15.2014 / 5:55 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Sharks-Kings series blog

Sharks could move Pavelski down, to center

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski was on the move Tuesday at practice, dropping from top-line wing to third-line center.

Where Pavelski winds up Thursday at SAP Center for Game 1 of the Sharks' first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Los Angeles Kings is anyone's guess (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, FS-W, CSN-CA).

Pavelski led the Sharks with career highs of 41 goals and 79 points this season and spent most of his time at left wing on the top line with center Joe Thornton and right wing Brent Burns.

But now that rookie wing Tomas Hertl has returned from a knee injury that sidelined him for nearly four months, the Sharks are considering moving Pavelski back to third-line center and having Hertl take his spot on Thornton's line for the opener of the Western Conference First Round.

Moving Pavelski would make the Sharks stronger down the middle and better prepared to face a Kings team that has centers Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis.

"The debate isn’t a raving one in the coaches’ locker room," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We feel equally comfortable going either way. The wild card is Tomas and making sure that he’s capable of handling minutes against the other team’s key players, and [Raffi Torres'] potential return to the lineup. A lot of that will dictate which way we’ll go."

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Posted On Friday, 04.11.2014 / 4:10 PM

By Eric Gilmore -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Sharks' Hertl set to rejoin lineup vs. Avalanche

SAN JOSE -- San Jose Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl will be in the lineup Friday night against the Colorado Avalanche for the first time since Dec. 19, when he suffered a major injury to his right knee during a game against the Los Angeles Kings.

Hertl underwent surgery Dec. 31 to repair two ligaments that were damaged by a knee-on-knee hit from Kings forward Dustin Brown. Hertl had 15 goals and 10 assists in 35 games before being injured.

"I'm very excited because it's four months not playing hockey," Hertl said after the Sharks' morning skate. "I'm very happy. I hope it's all good, the knee is OK. I hope I'm ready to play and ready to play in the playoffs."

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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres