If the San Jose Sharks are going to advance to the Western Conference Finals, they're going to have to do something Tuesday night that they haven't done in 2013:
Win a game at Staples Center.
The Los Angeles Kings are 5-0 at home against the Sharks this year, including 3-0 in the Western Conference Semifinals -- a series that has seen the home team win all six games so far.
Does home ice swing the edge to the Kings in Game 7 on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS), or are there other areas where the Sharks can gain an advantage to finally beat the Kings at Staples Center?
Both teams have high-end talent and both can use four lines. The Kings have been spreading their top-four forwards (Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown) over their first three lines while the Sharks have in Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski in the top six. Trevor Lewis could be a key for the Kings. The third-line center has had a solid series against San Jose. But San Jose's third-line center, Scott Gomez, will be playing in his 10th Game 7.
This one is close, but with Drew Doughty, Rob Scuderi, Slava Voynov and Robyn Regehr, the Kings can match up with any blue line in the League and feel they have the advantage. Voynov, in particular, has been excellent. Doughty is averaging over 28 minutes of ice time per game. The Sharks are no slouches in this department either, but Doughty and Voynov swing the edge to the Kings.
This one is also close, but Kings goalie Jonathan Quick leads the NHL in the playoffs with a 1.54 goals-against average, a .947 save percentage and three shutouts. San Jose goalie Antti Niemi has been sensational as well with a 1.85 GAA and .932 save percentage, but it's hard to go against the defending Conn Smythe Trophy winner, who is having another magical postseason.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter has been around longer, has won the Stanley Cup and is 3-3 in Game 7s, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan is 1-0 in his Game 7 coaching career and has done a masterful job working with a refreshed Sharks' roster to get the team in this position, especially after losing the first two games of the series.
The power play that was so good for the Sharks against the Vancouver Canucks (7-for-24) has started to come around against the Kings. San Jose has scored four power-play goals over the past four games, including two in Game 3. The problem for the Sharks is their power play is 1-for-19 on the road in the playoffs, including 0-for-10 against the Kings, while L.A. is 16-for-17 on the penalty kill in home games this postseason.
Game 7 experience matters and the Sharks have more of it. Ten of the 20 players they're expected to dress Tuesday have combined to appear in 30 Game 7s, including the 10 for Gomez. The Kings have eight guys in the lineup that have played in a combined 16 Game 7s. However, the Kings are at home, where they have won 13 straight games. That has to count for a lot.
The Kings have been a different and far better team at home all season. In fact, they earned the right to have this Game 7 at home by finishing two points ahead of San Jose in the regular-season standings. L.A.'s two wins over the Sharks at Staples Center were the difference -- and the home ice could be the difference in who advances to the conference final.