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Home-ice advantage big in Kings-Sharks series

by Jon Lane

KINGS (46-28-8) at SHARKS (51-22-9)


Last 10: Los Angeles 5-3-2; San Jose 5-4-1

Season series: The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks face off in the postseason for the third time since 2011. The Kings won the regular-season series with a 3-1-1 record, but the Sharks won the most recent game 2-1 on April 3 behind second-period goals from Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.

Big story: Home-ice advantage, which belongs to the Sharks in this Western Conference First Round series, has played a key role in this rivalry. The Kings defeated the Sharks last season in a seven-game series in which five games were decided by one goal and the home team won each game. The home team went 4-1-0 during the regular season, with the Kings beating the Sharks 1-0 at SAP Center on Jan. 27.

Team Scope:

Kings: Although Los Angeles is the lowest-scoring team in the postseason (206 goals), its top line has jelled since the arrival of forward Marian Gaborik at the NHL Trade Deadline. Gaborik (3-9-12), Anze Kopitar (7-5-12) and Justin Williams (2-4-6) combined for 30 points in the Kings' final 11 regular-season games, and Gaborik carries a four-game point streak into Game 1.

"We still have to tune some things up, but I think it was progress," Gaborik told LA Kings Insider. "Got to know the guys a little bit on the ice and off the ice, and obviously get some chemistry in our line from the start. I think it was progressing each and every game, and we're ready to go to the playoffs."

Sharks: Coach Todd McLellan has been experimenting with his lines in preparation for Game 1. Pavelski, the Sharks' leading scorer with 41 goals and 79 points, was moved from the top line to the third line Tuesday with the idea of providing better scoring balance. On Wednesday, Pavelski was back with Brent Burns and Joe Thornton, and rookie Tomas Hertl skated on the third line with center James Sheppard and wing Tommy Wingels

Hertl, who meshed with Burns and Thornton early in the season, returned from knee surgery to play in the Sharks' final two games. McLellan said where he ends up depends whether he's able to handle more minutes against key players on the Kings' top line.

"Some of that is our mindset. You begin to think of his as a regular player; you don't think of him as an injured guy working his way back in," McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News. "If he feels that from us, and from his teammates, it moves him along quicker and further."

Goalie Antti Niemi, who lost three of five starts down the stretch before making 30 saves to defeat the Phoenix Coyotes 3-2 in the season finale, will start Game 1 for the Sharks.

Who's hot: Kings defenseman Slava Voynov has five points (one goal) in his past four games. Kopitar has seven goals and four assists in his past nine games … Sharks center Patrick Marleau has four points (one goal, three assists) in his past five games. Pavelski had at least a point in seven of San Jose's final nine regular-season games, with seven goals and five assists over that span. Couture has six points (three goals) in his past five.

Injury report: Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (upper body) will play in Game 1 after missing the final four regular-season games … Sharks forward Raffi Torres (soreness) has been practicing and will play Thursday, as will forward Bracken Kearns (undisclosed). Forward Adam Burish (broken left index finger) is out indefinitely.

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