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Five things to watch in Sharks-Kings opener

by Brian Compton

The bad taste has been in the mouths of the San Jose Sharks ever since they were eliminated by the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After building a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series, the Sharks lost four straight, become the fourth team in NHL history to lose four in a row after winning the first three games of a playoff series.

Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup for the second time in three seasons.

San Jose will try to take its first step toward redemption when it opens the season at Los Angeles on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN1), but first the Sharks will have to watch the Kings raise their championship banner to the rafters of Staples Center.

"I'm happy that we're doing it that way, to bring back those feelings," Sharks forward Logan Couture told the San Jose Mercury News. "As much as they [stink], hopefully they can get us started in the right direction."

Here are five things to watch in the first of five games between the Sharks and Kings:

1. The banner ceremony -- Before the puck drops, the Kings will stand along their bench and watch their second Stanley Cup championship banner raised in the past three home openers. The focus eventually will shift to the game, but the players and fans in Los Angeles will at least have a few minutes to reflect on another memorable season.

2. Who is the Sharks captain? -- San Jose general manager Doug Wilson and coach Todd McLellan made headlines in August when they announced center Joe Thornton would no longer be captain, which he'd been since 2010. Forward Joe Pavelski seems to be the most logical choice to replace Thornton, but no announcement has been made.

3. Is Jonathan Quick ready to go? -- The Kings' No. 1 goaltender had wrist surgery in June but participated in training camp and aims to get through this season unharmed. The 28-year-old played in all 26 Stanley Cup Playoff games and had a 2.07 goals-against average and .915 save percentage.

4. Tanner and Tyler -- Two 22-year-old forwards, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, burst onto the scene in Los Angeles during the playoffs and played key roles. Pearson, 22, had 12 points in 24 postseason games; Toffoli had 29 points in 62 regular-season games and then went 7-7-14 in 26 playoff games. The Kings expect the two can build off what they accomplished in the spring.

5. Antti Niemi or Alex Stalock? -- Niemi has been the starting goaltender in San Jose since his arrival in 2010 and played 64 games last season, but he'll need a solid start to this season to hold on to his job. Stalock, 27, had a 1.87 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in 24 games last season.


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