San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings

West update: Sharks are tonight’s only empty-handed team

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Tuesday’s six big Western Conference showdowns gave every contender a reason to keep their heads high to at least some extent – except the San Jose Sharks, whose shoulders must slump low.

The Sharks have now lost back-to-back games in regulation to start the week, as the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings flagrantly outplayed them. Tuesday’s game versus Los Angeles ended with a 5-2 win for the Kings that included a Jeff Carter empty-netter that really just made the score seem more fitting.

(San Jose allowed 40+ shots in both contests.)

Stars stand alone

The Dallas Stars stand above everyone else thanks to a big overtime win in an absolutely enthralling game against the Phoenix Coyotes, but that’s far the only important story of the night.

Smoking Semyon

Considering the fact that he’s gone 10-2-0 in his last 12 games, it might be fair to call Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov “Ilya Bryzgalov West.” Varly stopped all but one shot as the Avs squeezed out a 2-1 OT win against the Calgary Flames in a matchup of two playoff-desperate teams. (Interesting side note: Matt Stajan has been Calgary’s lone goal scorer in two straight games, which allowed them to salvage efforts with a charity point in each.)

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West outlook

Now that you’re updated on the nightly results, here is how the race for the final few spots looks:

3) Dallas: 84 points, 33 regulation/OT wins and nine games left

7) Colorado: 85 points, 31 regulation/OT wins and seven games left
8) Los Angeles: 84 points, 31 regulation/OT wins and nine games left

9) Phoenix: 84 points, 30 regulation/OT wins and eight games left
10) San Jose: 82 points, 29 regulation/OT wins and nine games left
11) Calgary: 82 points, 31 regulation/OT wins and eight games left

Yup, that’s obviously as close as it gets. Perhaps the one bit of good news for the Sharks is that they’re not totally out of it yet – honest. Still, this is a huge turnaround, with perhaps the Kings grinning the widest.

  • The Coyotes might lose Shane Doan for a few games.
  • It’s possible that the Stars might lose their big star Jamie Benn if a rough contest against Phoenix did injure him.
  • They have a games remaining edge on the Colorado Avalanche and other edges on the Flames.

Either way, there’s no glossing over tonight’s big losers: the Sharks. In fact, Sports Club Stats places their playoff chances in 10th place at 37.7 percent – down a whopping 18.2 percent tonight – while Los Angeles is at seventh with 70.6 percent odds (up 10.1 percent).

Addendum: even if you say “Hey, the Nashville Predators lost to the Edmonton Oilers tonight,” the response is simple. If getting Alexander Radulov back isn’t a big win, then what is?

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.

After advancing to Cup final, DeBoer had Sharks fans coming up to him with ‘tears in their eyes’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Head coach Peter DeBoer addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.

Now he knows.

“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”

The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.

More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.

It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”

Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.

“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”

Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot

Kopitar will play for Slovenia in Olympic qualifiers

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Anze Kopitar #11 of Slovenia skates against Russia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.

RTV Slovenia has the story here.

The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.

The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.

Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.

Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win

Zubrus in, Nieto likely out for Sharks in Stanley Cup Final opener

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 15:  Dainius Zubrus #9 of the San Jose Sharks skates against Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues in Game One of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 15, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.

But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.

The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.

Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.

Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.