Early in Los Angeles' 4-1 victory Dec. 19 at Staples Center, Sharks rookie forward Tomas Hertl sustained a serious injury to his right knee during a collision with Kings captain Dustin Brown. Brown received a major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct but no supplemental discipline from the NHL. Hertl underwent knee surgery and could be lost for the season.
"You never want to see anybody get hurt, especially an exciting, young player," Brown said Monday after the Kings' morning skate at SAP Center. "Hopefully he can get healthy."
Brown said he didn't injure Hertl intentionally.
"I think everyone needs to realize the game's going pretty quickly and there's going to be collisions that happen," he said. "When someone gets hurt it gets magnified, but if he's fine would we even be talking about this? All I can say is I made the effort to get out of the way. I think that was pretty evident on the video. My intention was to hit him at first and I realized I wasn't going to be able to get there in time because he had the puck on his stick for a split second. Then I tried to get out of the way. Whenever a player gets hurt I think it ruffles some feathers and that's fine. That's just the nature of the beast, probably more so with the Sharks because we have the rivalry of the playoffs."
Brown said he doesn't expect the Sharks to target him for retribution.
"I'm just preparing to play because at the end of the day they're 10 points up on us," Brown said. "Nothing's more important, for us at least, than two points. I'd imagine it's the same thing for [San Jose]. The way the Pacific Division is there's no time for all the other stuff."
Sharks backup goaltender Alex Stalock will start against Los Angeles for the first time in his career. Stalock has recorded shutouts in his past two starts, against the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets, and has a shutout streak of 140 minutes, 59 seconds.
Stalock said starting against the Kings will be special because the Sharks might face them in the playoffs for the second straight season. The Kings beat the Sharks in seven games in the Western Conference Semifinals last season.
"I think when it's a team that you're going to have to go through in playoffs at some point, depending on what round it is, you obviously want to kind of let them know how tough it is to get points out of this building and later down the road when we meet them again it's going to be hard to come out of here with a win," said Stalock, who faced the Kings once last season in relief of Antti Niemi.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan shuffled his top two lines midway through the second period Saturday during San Jose's 3-2 overtime win against the Minnesota Wild. Matt Nieto moved from the second line to the top line, trading spots with Brent Burns. That's the way San Jose will open the game against Los Angeles.
Kings defenseman Alec Martinez, who sustained a hyperextended elbow Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks, did not travel with the team to San Jose. Matt Greene is expected to take his place in the lineup. Greene has missed the past six games with an upper-body injury.
Here are the projected lineups for San Jose and Los Angeles:
Injured: Alec Martinez (elbow)