SAN JOSE -- Playing the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion is never easy, but Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said he welcomes the chance to put a hammerlock on their Western Conference Semifinal series Tuesday night in Game 4 (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN).
"They live off playing in their own arena," Doughty said after the Kings' optional morning skate there. "To be able to get a win in their home rink I think will be a little deflating for them. We know how tough it's going to be to steal one here tonight, but we're determined to do it. If we go back to Staples [Center] up 3-1, we know there's a good chance we can close out the series. Right now it's just one game at a time, and tonight's the most important."
The Kings won the first two games in Los Angeles, but the Sharks defeated them 2-1 in overtime Saturday night in Game 3 in San Jose, cutting their best-of-7 series deficit to 2-1.
No one has to tell the Sharks how little that one win will mean if they don't protect their home ice again Tuesday. There have been 262 teams in NHL history that have faced a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-7 playoff series; 24 of those teams went on to win the series. That works out to 9.2 percent. The Sharks are 0-5 after falling behind 3-1.
"We know we don't want to go down 3-1 going back to L.A." Sharks center Logan Couture said after the Sharks' morning skate. "We know this is a huge game. We have to bring our best effort. They're going to be better than they were in Game 3. We know that. We have to be better than we were as well."
The Sharks will be without forwards Martin Havlat (lower body) and Raffi Torres, who is still serving a suspension for his hit on Kings forward Jarret Stoll in Game 1. But after missing practice Monday, Couture was on the ice for the morning skate and said he's ready to play. He missed much of the second period Saturday with an apparent injury to his left leg.
"All good. It helped me, and I'm sure it helped some other guys as well, their team and our team," Couture said of the day off. "Rest is big, especially this time of the year through this schedule. Guys have bumps and bruises. It was a good day."
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said Couture's health is not "an issue or factor at all."
"Logan was good yesterday. Just didn't skate," McLellan said. "Made no sense to put him on the ice. He looked good this morning. He's excited about playing."
Based on the Sharks' line rushes, it looked as if Tim Kennedy will center the fourth line tonight and take Havlat's spot in lineup. But McLellan said there's a chance defenseman Jason Demers could fill the open spot and spend time on the blue line and at forward.
"Whatever happens, I'll be ready to go," Demers said.
The same is true for Kings left wing Kyle Clifford. He has been sidelined since May 8 with an undisclosed injury but skated on the fourth line Monday in practice with Brad Richardson and center Colin Fraser. Kings coach Darryl Sutter declined to say whether Clifford will play Tuesday night. If he does, there's no question what he'll bring to the lineup.
"Just a physical presence," Clifford said. "Keeping it simple, getting pucks to the net, bodies on their D-men and just playing hard."
Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said Clifford "brings some size and toughness" to the Kings.
"He’s a guy who looks to drive the puck wide and take it to the net. He’s someone we’re going to have to be aware of," Wingels said. "He hasn’t played in a bit so we’ll see how he is there, but he’s a guy who can definitely add something to their lineup.”
The series has become more intense and emotional each game. Moments after Couture scored in overtime in Game 3, Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick received a game misconduct for going out of his way to yell at referees Wes McCauley and Marc Joannette. The Kings were upset over a pair of penalties late in the third period that left them facing a 5-on-3 power play to open overtime.
Couture said each team is getting under the other's skin.
"It's playoff hockey," Couture said. "It starts in Game 1. You don't like them, they don't like you. They're a California team as well. We saw them in the playoffs two years ago and not much has changed between the two teams. There's just a hatred there. Same way it was in the first series against Vancouver. I think it progresses. It gets a little worse each game. That's the way this game is."
The Sharks eliminated the Kings 4-2 two years ago in the quarterfinals. That's the last time the Kings lost a series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Last year they won the Stanley Cup, taking a 3-0 lead in all four series. This year they came back from an 0-2 hole to beat the St. Louis Blues in six games in the first round.
"It's so hard to win a playoff series, let alone an entire playoff run," Doughty said. "We know how tough it's going to be and how much work we still have left to do just to beat San Jose.
"Of course we're up for it. We want nothing more than to beat San Jose, and after that we want to go and do the same thing we did last year. But we can't look too far ahead. We're just right now focusing on San Jose and how badly we want to beat these guys. We're all hungry for it and prepared to do it."
One key to beating San Jose will be sending more good shots at Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi, Doughty said.
"I don't think we've tested Niemi enough in this series. I can't even recall a big save he made," Doughty said. "We definitely need to get more pucks and more people in front of the net so he can't see it."
Here's how the lineups could look Tuesday:
Injured: Adam Burish (right hand)
Suspended: Raffi Torres