LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks begin their Western Conference First Round series at Staples Center on Thursday (7:30 p.m. PT; CSNBC, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-CA, FS-W). Here are five keys for Game 1:
1. Play Smart: The Kings know that they have to be physical to have success, but they also know they can't take penalties of aggression because of the power play the San Jose Sharks possess. The Sharks have a 22.5 percent conversion rate, which was third best in the League during the regular season.
"You have two teams that definitely don't like each other, but I think we have to stay as disciplined as we can and keep it between the whistles and not after the whistles," Kings forward Trevor Lewis said. "It can get tough at times, but sometimes you have to swallow and go out and play hard."
2. Forget the past: The Sharks had their way with the Kings this season, taking seven of the 10 points and winning each game at Staples Center. In those two games, the Sharks outscored the Kings 10-4.
"It's in the past now," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "You can look back as far as you want to look back to see who has beaten who, but it doesn't matter come tonight. All it comes down to is who is the better team out there tonight; who competes harder and who wants it more."
3. Play the game: The Sharks know they can't get caught up in the fact that they blew a 3-0 series lead the last time these teams met in the playoffs. The fact that the window for the veterans of this team appears to be closing is unimportant. All that matters is winning Game 1 to set a tone for the series.
"We have to look at tonight and what we can do tonight and steal the first game here at that building."
4. Hard minutes: The Los Angeles Kings attack often starts from its defense. The Kings have several defenseman that are adept at making the long transition pass or skating the puck into attacking areas. The Sharks know that they can't allow those players easy access to those plays. The road block has to be an aggressive forecheck.
"Forechecking well, taking away their defensemen's speed through the neutral zone," Sharks center Logan Couture said when asked about the biggest key. "They have guys like [Drew] Doughty, [Alec] Martinez and [Jake] Muzzin that skate well and can move the puck. We have to force them to play in their own end and play hard minutes."
5. Believe in Jones: Yes, Martin Jones is making his first Stanley Cup Playoffs start in Game 1 (he played in two games with the Kings in the 2013-14 playoffs), but the 26-year-old has proven throughout this season, his first as a No. 1, that he is capable of being a game-changer. The Sharks have to trust that he can be that last line of defense so they can play the game the same way they have throughout the season.
"I think he has that calm, composed demeanor, much like [New Jersey Devils Martin] Brodeur had, and [Pittsburgh Penguins Marc-Andre] Fleury," San Jose defenseman Paul Martin said. "They want to be in the net. Not too much bothers them. They don't get too rattled. They are going to play the game their way. It's always comforting playing in front of him because he is so composed. We have all the confidence and belief that he is going to do what he has done all year and make the big saves that we rely on him for."
by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial 5:29 PM