LOS ANGELES -- San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan is embracing the chance to be a part of the Los Angeles Kings' big night.
"We're entertainers," McLellan said Wednesday morning. "We come to the rink and we perform for the fans, whether they're the road fans or the home fans. And this should be a very entertaining game. It's a great rivalry and it should be the opening game, at least out west."
When the puck finally drops at Staples Center, McLellan wants his players to use to their advantage the raw emotion they'll inevitably feel knowing the Kings are raising their Stanley Cup championship banner, raising it almost right in the face of the Sharks. He wants his players to use to their advantage the bitter and still fresh memories of what could have been for the Sharks last season.
They blew a 3-0 series lead to the Kings in the Western Conference First Round. They have been reminded about that a lot in the lead-up to this game.
"There is emotion that exists in this game for both teams," McLellan said. "There is excitement on their behalf and probably a little frustration on our behalf. That's a good way to start the season, but it's going to have to be controlled emotion. Obviously they'll have their event and it'll delay things a little bit, but those are some of the obstacles that are in our way and we have to overcome them. I don't want us to be uptight. I don't want us to be grabbing our sticks. I want to be loose and to get out there and play the way we can."
McLellan isn't wasting time with some of the Sharks' younger players. Defenseman Mirco Mueller (19 years old) and center Chris Tierney (20) will be making their NHL debuts against the Kings.
Mueller was the Sharks' first-round pick (No. 18) in the 2013 NHL Draft. Tierney was their second-round pick (No. 55) in 2012.
How will Mueller fare against the heavy forecheck of the Kings? How will Tierney do against the likes of Kings centers Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards, not to mention Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter, if he sees the ice against the latter two?
McLellan can't wait to find out.
"You have to play your first [game] at some point," McLellan said. "We're not going to hide them at all. We think they have the ability to play. We'll see where we end up at the end of the night."
McLellan said Tierney and Mueller made the team out of training camp because of their sense of the game, their awareness on the ice and their ability to play the way the Sharks want to play.
"They won the opportunity to play; others lost out on it," McLellan said. "It doesn't mean it won't change throughout the year, but they've won the right to compete. We've talked about being a younger hockey club and we are. Age doesn't win or lose you games, players do. They'll have to have the ability to maintain it as the year goes on."
Tierney said he wasn't nervous Wednesday morning, but he expects to feel nerves before the game. Mueller was the same way.
"We want to get right into it and be a big part in helping this team win games," Tierney said. "The adrenaline is going to be pumping tonight. I'm excited."