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.
Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.
“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”
Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.
Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.
Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.
“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”
Jake Virtanen, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight when his Canucks meet the Kings in Los Angeles.
The 19-year-old winger was a healthy scratch for Vancouver’s first three games of the regular season. He had two goals and two assists in six preseason games.
“I can’t wait,” he told reporters. “My energy is high. I want to get a couple of hits on my first shift.”
Big and physical with goal-scoring ability, the consensus is that Virtanen will remain in the NHL and not be returned to junior after he’s played nine games. That consensus could always change based on his play, of course.
The Canucks — who won last night in Anaheim — did not have a full skate this morning, so it’s unclear who will come out of the lineup. The best guess is rookie Jared McCann, who’s been playing third-line center.
If McCann does come out, the Canucks could move Brandon Sutter to third-line center and Virtanen could take Sutter’s spot on the first line with the Sedin twins. Or, there could be more extensive line juggling.