Playoffs Tonight: It’s do or die for Sharks, Kings

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Both Western Conference series have been pushed to Game 7, so the participants in the Western Conference finals will be determined over the next two contests.

Los Angeles hosts San Jose (9:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)
Series tied at 3-3

The Sharks and Kings were two of the most successful teams at home during the regular season and both of these squads have perfect records at their respective arenas during the 2013 playoffs.

That works in the Kings’ favor going into this contest, but there are exceptions to trends. After three failed attempts to beat the Kings at Staples Center, San Jose can still advance with just one road victory.

That’s not hard to envision happening. Most of the games in this series have been decided by just one goal and could have easily turned out differently.

Plus there might be a separate factor that negates Los Angeles’ home-ice advantage. Despite being the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Kings are largely inexperienced with Game 7s. As a franchise, Los Angeles hasn’t played in one since 2002 and overall the Sharks’ projected lineup has participated in 31 career Game 7s to the Kings’ 15.

“When you’re road hockey, you’re always playing in a Game 7, right?” Kings captain Dustin Brown, who is among those that will be playing in his first Game 7, told LA Kings Insider. “So I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I know a lot of other guys are looking forward to the opportunity of playing in a game like [tonight].”

On the other end of the spectrum, Sharks forward Scott Gomez is getting ready to participate in his 10th career Game 7.

“The main thing is, what I was told, is that you can’t change your game. Do what got you here,” Gomez told CSN Bay Area. “Obviously, emotions are going to be running high.”

That might be especially true for Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who seems to be getting frustrated with the Sharks rough play. So far that hasn’t been enough to give the Sharks much of a noticeable edge, but if Quick loses his cool in this contest, it might end up costing the Kings this series.

Of course, in a contest like this, anyone that steps onto the ice could end up being the hero and any mistake could prove fatal.