A series that many expect to be full of physicality — and bad blood — will be ratcheted up a notch tonight.
San Jose forward Raffi Torres will play against the Kings in Game 1 of their first-round series on Thursday, marking the first time he’ll suit up after missing the final 17 games of the regular season.
Torres missed virtually the entire campaign after tearing up his knee in an exhibition game against Anaheim. He initially returned to the Sharks lineup on Feb. 27, but only played five games before shutting it down again to re-strengthen the ligaments in preparation for the playoffs.
Ah yes, the playoffs. The place where Torres has established his reputation.
Known as one of the most feared hitters in the NHL, Torres has twice been suspended during the postseason for delivering big blows: One for drilling Chicago forward Marian Hossa and, most recently, for hitting Kings forward Jarret Stoll during last year’s second-round series:
The Stoll hit was just one of the many that’s led to serious animosity between L.A. and San Jose.
Earlier this season, Kings captain Dustin Brown sidelined Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl for 45 games with this hit:
The Sharks were irate following the incident, and not just because they lost the services of their rookie sensation, who had 10 goals and 25 points in his first 35 games. GM Doug Wilson said he was “disappointed” in Brown’s lack of concern for Hertl — following the game, Brown said the refs got the call wrong — and in the first rematch between L.A. and San Jose, Tommy Wingels blasted Brown for declining his invite to fight, saying the Kings captain “doesn’t want to own up” for what he did to Hertl.
The series gets underway tonight from the SAP Center in San Jose. You can catch it live on NBSN starting at 10:30 p.m. ET.