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Rested Kings host Sharks having to play back-to-back games
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings host San Jose on Sunday night in a back-to-back game for the Sharks.
The Kings (11-3-2) have been recuperating since a 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay Thursday at Staples Center. San Jose (9-6-0) also fell victim to the Lightning last week, allowing five goals to the speedy team from the Eastern Conference on Wednesday.
The Sharks beat Vancouver 5-0 Saturday. They jumped out to a lead at 48 seconds of the first period when Tomas Hertl scored his third goal. San Jose netted one short-handed in the second, Logan Couture's ninth. Couture added an empty-net goal at 18:19 of the third period. Chris Tierney scored short-handed into the empty net at 19:21 of the third and then scored on a penalty shot, also short-handed, at 19:47. Aaron Dell recorded a 41-save shutout, the second of his career and first this year.
Couture described the game by saying, "It was an ugly one, I guess. An ugly win. It's nice to win, but we didn't play our best."
Coach Peter DeBoer agreed: "In an 82-game season, you got to win all kinds of different ways. We've lost pretty, and I'll take an ugly win any day over a pretty loss."
Los Angeles coach John Stevens put the back-to-back of the Sharks into perspective earlier Saturday. "I think teams are so well-conditioned and they do such a good job with recovery. We beat Montreal here on a back-to-back but they really buzzed us early. We got a jump on Toronto and then they really came back on us. Nashville was a back-to-back. I haven't seen a big drop-off," Stevens said, as reported on the Kings website.
Both teams enjoy stellar goaltending. The Kings' Jonathan Quick has the second-best save percentage of goaltenders with a dozen or more games played. He is fifth in goals against. Sharks' likely starter Martin Jones was named the NHL third star of the week last week. He notched three wins and recorded a 1.30 GAA the week prior to gain the accolade.
The Sharks play a solid shot-prevention defense. Jones's three victories between Oct. 30 and Nov. 4 saw him face 60 shots. He made 56 saves. On the season, he has faced under 27 shots per game.
The Kings have opened the season using a more aggressive offense than in past years.
Quick saw 115 shots in his last three games. He made 104 saves. He has faced 34 shots per game this season and has recorded two shutouts.
The Kings were best in the league at goals-against per game played at 2.44 going into Saturday night. The Sharks moved from fourth-best to lead the league at 2.33 goals-against per game with the shutout over the Canucks.
Both Los Angeles and San Jose sit roughly at mid-pack in the NHL on the power play. The Kings lead the league in penalty kill percentage. The Sharks rate second. San Jose scored three short-handed goals versus Vancouver, though the second was into an empty net and the third was on a penalty shot, both by Tierney.
LA worked on the penalty kill in practice Saturday, after which Stevens explained to Kings' Insider Jon Rosen, "There's a lot of detail within the structure in terms of stick position in certain situations, rotations. There's a lot, a lot of detail that comes with special teams."
Goal scoring indicates how different the teams are this season. Through 16 games, the Kings have 54 goals. Through 15 games, the Sharks have 42.
Adrian Kempe, who did not play versus Tampa Bay due to illness, practiced late in the week. He will center the second line pair of Pearson and Toffoli against San Jose. Kempe matches their speed well. These players, who have been together since Jeff Carter was injured in October, have 17 of the Kings' 54 goals.
Four Kings players have scored their first NHL goal this season. Two of those, Oscar Fantenberg and Kurtis MacDermid, are defensemen. Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, Norris Trophy winner last spring, still has not scored. He recorded 56 goals over the past two seasons.
Both teams hope to forget their performance against the Lightning and get back to business in the more defense-oriented Western Conference. With the win Saturday, the Sharks move into third in the Pacific Division. The Kings lead the Pacific. The Sharks trail the Kings by six points with a game in hand.
Updated November 12, 2017