NHL Betting Preview: Los Angeles vs. San Jose

Mike Brown, Kyle CliffordIf you look at the standings, fans and hockey experts probably wouldn’t blame the San Jose Sharks for actually trying to avoid home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, since most of their points have come on the road.

Over all, the Sharks have the least points won on home ice among postseason contending teams in both conferences. Recently, they’ve lost three consecutive games on home ice, at the SAP Center, but tomorrow night’s game if they win will give them an opportunity to lock in a playoff spot.

Many purists would think it ludicrous to even consider such an idea, but losing to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night, and thereby completing a six-game homestand wouldn’t necessarily give or the Sharks a reason for concern, since they’d be content to stay in third place in the Pacific Division.

San Jose right now is 41-28-6 and has an amazing home record this season with only 10 regulation defeats on the road. That’s the second fewest in the league. Many have criticized and scrutinized the Sharks for a disappointing home record, at 16-18-3 including Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars. That loss came two nights after they allowed six goals to a horrible Edmonton team that ranks in the basement of the NHL standings, and one of the worst teams in scoring.

Many opponents don’t have the same fear of coming into the Shark Tank. Since San Jose has been on the verge of losing 19 games in regulation for the first time since 1997-98. Ironically enough, current Kings coach, Darryl Sutter, spent his first of six seasons coaching behind the Sharks’ bench.

In the standings, San Jose is only four points behind the Anaheim Ducks who is second in the Pacific division. The Sharks have one of the league’s best power plays record at 22.1 percent efficacy, but it was absent though having six chances against the Stars.

“It was a game where you come back to the room and wonder why you didn’t get a couple more goals out there,” center Joe Pavelski said. ”If you give our PP unit that much time, we have to get one. We have to really find a way to produce, not just chances but goals. We still be to be cleaner.”

Head to head, the Sharks have split the four matchups with the first-place Los Angeles who have an impressive 45-25-5 record. As expected, the Kings took both games in San Jose and the Sharks the two in LA. The Kings have won five of their last six visits to San Jose, including a Game 7 of their first-round series in 2014 that completed a historic comeback after losing the first three games and being down 0-3.

Los Angeles recently has lost all three games on the road trip it was on before returning home and easily beating Edmonton 6-4 on Saturday. It has gotten that many goals in its previous four games, so with their scoring touch back, the Sharks could be in a for pounding.

Kings Tyler Toffoli had two goals and two assists in that game, Jeff Carter scored twice and had an assist, and Milan Lucic had three assists in the Kings’ best offensive performance since they beat the Boston Bruins 9-2, back on Feb. 9.

“With all of the chances that we had in Minnesota and Winnipeg (in the last two games of the trip) and not being able to bury those opportunities, we put a lot of onus on that heading into (Saturday),” Lucic said. “For us, it was a great job offensively to get the goals and make it count.”

LA goalie, Jonathan Quick had started and lost all those three games on the road trip and didn’t play his best game on Saturday, either but it was enough for the win. He let in nine goals in two starts against the Sharks this season, after posting a 1.58 goals-against average in his previous eight against them, including playoff games. So he’ll want to reverse the trend.

Sharks netminder, Martin Jones currently has a 1.71 GAA in his last 10 starts for San Jose, and he has been in net for the last four meetings. It will probably be a game time decision if Sharks coach Pete DeBoer with go with eithe Jones or newly acquired James Reimer, who has two shutouts in five starts since being traded to San Jose from Toronto at this year’s trade deadline. Either goalie will up for the match.

The only injury the Sharks have is to forward Joonas Donskoi, who is still uncertain after missing Saturday’s game due to a lower-body injury. Otherwise they are healthy and probably looking to get their flow back at the Tank. There is a good chance, the Kings will become Shark food but that all comes down to how hungry the Sharks are.

Our Pick: Sharks over Kings, 4-2