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Sharks must continue home dominance to stay alive

by Brian Hunter


(Los Angeles leads best-of-7 series, 3-2)


Big story: The Los Angeles Kings remain unbeaten at Staples Center, and as a result they have the opportunity to clinch their second consecutive berth in the Western Conference Finals. However, in order to accomplish that and avoid having to go a seventh game with the San Jose Sharks, they'll have to win at HP Pavilion, where they lost twice earlier in this series. After posting a 10-1 road mark on their march to the Stanley Cup in 2012, the Kings are 1-4 away from home this postseason.

Team Scope:

Kings: Goals haven't been easy to come by throughout this series, and Game 5 proved no exception as Los Angeles and San Jose battled scoreless into the latter stages of the second period. That the ice was finally be broken by Anze Kopitar came as a bit of a surprise -- not because Kopitar doesn't have the pedigree of an elite scorer, but because it was only his second goal in 27 games dating back to the regular season.

After Kopitar broke the ice with 1:52 left in the second, defenseman Slava Voynov found his own scoring touch again and doubled the lead 53 seconds into the third. Jeff Carter added an empty-netter and Quick completed the shutout with 24 saves for a 3-0 victory that puts the Kings back in control.

But to avoid a Game 7, they'll have to figure out a way to win at the Shark Tank, where San Jose has lost just twice in regulation in 28 regular-season and playoff games.

“We’re preparing to go up there and win,” captain Dustin Brown said Saturday. “We don’t want to go up there and steal a game. We want to go up there and win a game. Your game plan doesn’t change, it’s just a mentality to go into a tough building and get the job done. There’s a difference between knowing you’re going to win and hoping you’re going to win and we got to go up there knowing we’re to win.”

Sharks: Just as Los Angeles has yet to lose a game in its building this postseason, San Jose can make the same claim. The Sharks are a perfect 4-0 on home ice against the Vancouver Canucks and Kings, and they have no choice but to build off that if they want to force a winner-take-all seventh game.

Antti Niemi won't be an issue -- even in defeat Thursday, he stopped 26 of 28 shots and gave his team a chance to win. But the Sharks are having the same issue the St. Louis Blues had before them -- as well as the Canucks, Blues, Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils last postseason -- and that's finding a way to get enough goals against Quick to win.

Forward Logan Couture, who included himself among the top players who didn't produce in Game 5, said Saturday he expects a much better effort and that he and his teammates are in a positive frame of mind.

"Confident and having a good time," Couture said of the Sharks' outlook entering Game 6. "There's definitely not an uncomfortable feeling. We're going to approach it like our season's on the line because it is and I expect us to be very desperate and play well."

Who's hot: Quick's shutout in Game 5 was the seventh of his postseason career. He has three in 11 starts, matching his total from 20 starts a year ago. His 1.50 goals-against average and .948 save percentage lead the NHL. Carter (2-3-5) and Mike Richards (2-3-5) lead the Kings in scoring for the series. … Niemi has allowed just four goals on 78 shots over the past three games.

Injury report: Los Angeles forward Jarret Stoll (upper body) hasn't played since Game 1 of the series. … San Jose forwards Martin Havlat (lower body) and Adam Burish (upper body) are sidelined. Burish took the pre-game skate Thursday, but didn't play. He may be ready to return for Game 6.

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