Can Sharks steal one from host Kings?
For the fourth time in six seasons, two Pacific Division heavyweights will battle for Western Conference playoff supremacy.
In the final contest on tonight’s docket, the Kings and Sharks drop the puck at 10:30 p.m. ET. Oddsmakers at online sports book BetDSI currently lean in the direction of the two-time Stanley Cup champs. Los Angeles nets odds of -140 to protect home ice, while San Jose represents a +120 underdog.
Neither team could snatch the West’s No. 2 seed from Anaheim, so the stage is set for another epic opening-round clash. Daryl Sutter’s bunch staged an epic comeback just two years ago to eliminate the Sharks in the quarterfinals. Rallying from a 3-0 series deficit, the Kings carried that momentum all the way to a title.
San Jose’s leadership looks markedly different now. Peter DeBoer has supplanted Todd McLellan on the bench, and the new messenger guided his group to a sterling finish. With Joe Thornton playing at a vintage level and Joe Pavelski thriving as the captain, the Sharks’ offense causes no shortage of fits. Goalie Martin Jones also deserves immense credit for crafting a 37-23-4record after arriving from Boston in a trade.
Ironically, Jones captured a ring as Los Angeles stalwart Jonathan Quick’s backup in 2014. At 30, Quick’s never been better. The same, unfortunately, can’t be stated about the collection of talent around him. Centers Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter notwithstanding, the Kings simply lack other finishers up front. Will seasoned veteran Vincent Lecavalier continue to pilot the third line with aplomb? How does Dustin Brown ingratiate himself into the mix again?
The questions are obviously more plentiful on this account, and San Jose’s hungry to exact revenge. Bet on those Sharks to steal one at Staples Center.
THURSDAY NHL FREE PICK: SHARKS +1.5