Logan Couture, Dustin Brown

Playoffs tonight: Sharks look to force a Game 7 with Kings


It’s down to the Western Conference to figure out their business and one half of the Conference finals party could be settled tonight. Dig in gang, it’ll be a good one.

Game 6: San Jose Sharks host Los Angeles Kings (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)
Los Angeles leads series 3-2

The one question heading into tonight’s game that stands out is whether or not the home team can keep winning. Neither team has won on the road in this series and the Sharks are certainly hoping that holds true or else tonight is it for them. Fortunately for San Jose, the Kings have stunk at the Shark Tank.

In their last seven games in San Jose, the Kings are 0-4-3 including two 2-1 losses in Games 3 and 4. If there’s a silver lining there for L.A. it’s that the games have been that close, meaning things can turn on a dime for them with the proper bounces. Having that happen and actually playing well enough to do it are two entirely different things.

Seeing how the Sharks have played at home makes you wonder what’s in the water that makes their game so much better. Maybe it’s just their power play.

San Jose is 3-9 on the man-advantage at home in this series and considering they’ve only had four goals in those two games, their loaded power play is the key. Their top unit with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Dan Boyle, and Joe Pavelski is formidable on anyone’s ice, but even more so on their own.

Perhaps the Kings’ best move to try and win on the road is to play it cool and play it smart and not get caught up in any antics that lead to penalties. The Sharks will do their part to make sure they’re goaded properly. Look for guys like Dustin Brown and Mike Richards to be factors there.

PHT Morning Skate: Beat writers survey predicts Ducks will win Cup

Corey Perry, Frederik Andersen
AP Photo
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

In a survey of 29 beat writers, the Anaheim Ducks emerged as the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup. If you’ll recall, they have that in common with the EA Sports simulation. (Boston Globe)

Alex Ovechkin would pick an Olympic hit against Jaromir Jagr as the biggest check of his life. (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

Here are the highlights from Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Colorado:

The Montreal Canadiens seem committed to using Alex Galchenyuk as a center throughout the 2015-16 campaign. (The Canadian Press)

The NHL recently enlisted its players to read off some not so mean tweets. (USA Today)

Bills coach Rex Ryan talked about the Sabres in Thursday’s press conference. (NHL.com)

Frederik Andersen may have the Anaheim Ducks’ starting job for now, but with John Gibson still a big part of their plans, Andersen has to keep proving himself. (Orange County Register)

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.