Los Angeles Kings' Anze Kopitar, of Slovenia, top left, trips over San Jose Sharks goalie Alex Stalock as he scores during the second period of an NHL hockey game on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

NHL on NBCSN: Kings, Sharks compete in likely playoff preview


NBCSN continues its coverage of the 2013-14 campaign tonight when the San Jose Sharks host the Los Angeles Kings at the SAP Center at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

The Sharks and Kings have faced each other in twice in the previous three postseasons and have each come away with a series win. Now Round Three looks probable, so this match will serve as a potential playoff preview.

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The fact that these two powerhouses might play against each other right off the bat should make for a great show, especially with expectations so high for both teams.

Los Angeles will try and one-up Chicago’s recent success by claiming the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years. In order to do that, they need goaltender Jonathan Quick to remain at the top of his game. Quick frustrated the Sharks in the second round of the 2013 playoffs and has won both of his starts against them this season. Fresh off his 17-save shutout on Wednesday, he might be back in net tonight.

The Kings will also need help from one of the new faces in this rivalry: Marian Gaborik. This will be his first game against the Sharks since the Kings acquired him from Columbus. He’s on a five-game point streak and the hope in Los Angeles is that he can continue to bolster the team’s anemic offense.

Los Angeles ranks 25th in the league in goals per game, down from 10th in the shortened campaign. That’s not an issue that the Sharks share. Although Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are both firmly in their mid-30s, they haven’t slowed down and Joe Pavelski has set new career-highs with 38 goals and 75 points in 77 games.

The Sharks will also be held to a high standard in the playoffs, but they are also being looked at in a different light. Los Angeles has proven it can excel when it counts the most. San Jose, on the other hand, has clinched a postseason berth for the 10th straight season and still hasn’t made it beyond the Western Conference Final.

There have been 19 playoff appearance streaks that have lasted longer than the Sharks’, but of them, only six ran their course without a single championship. To put it another way, of the six teams that are currently in position to make the playoffs for at least the fifth consecutive season, San Jose is the only one to have nothing to show for their run.

Beating the Kings tonight won’t change that, but it would be the opening salvo in San Jose’s bid to finally shake the stigma surrounding them.

So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?

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You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

“Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

* – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.

Price paid: Devils come back against Condon, Canadiens

Mike Condon, John Moore,
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If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.

The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.

After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.

If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.

Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.

Metro’s best? Capitals keep winning, pass Rangers for division lead

Jonathan Bernier; Matt Niskanen; Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau

If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:

“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”

The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.

Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:

With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.

Measuring stick stretch begins

Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.

This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.

It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.

In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.

Video: Evgeni Malkin leaves Oilers spinning


Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.

It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.

His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:

These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”

Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.