NHL on NBCSN: Sharks, Kings renew hostilities

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NBCSN will kick off its post-holiday schedule with back-to-back rivalry games tonight. The second will feature the Kings and Sharks in Los Angeles and start at 10:00 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

When the Sharks faced the Kings in their season opener, they had something to prove after San Jose was embarrassed by Los Angeles in the first round “reverse sweep.”. The fact that the Sharks went on to earn a 4-0 victory in that contest was a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t make up for the playoff collapse. Nothing they do in the regular season can.

Even still, the situation is far different for Game 2 of the season series between San Jose and Los Angeles. The Sharks entered the holiday break on a 9-1-1 run to improve to 19-11-5 this season. Even their 3-2 overtime loss against Anaheim to close their pre-Christmas schedule seemed to do little to dampen their enthusiasm.

“If we play that way, we’ll win more than we lose,” said Joe Pavelski, per CSN Bay Area.

“It answered some questions that I had going in,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of the loss. “Are we going to be prepared and focused and could we compete in this type of game right before Christmas? We did that. We had some good leadership in the locker room and everybody found a way to scramble to get a point on the road.”

Los Angeles hasn’t been nearly as effective lately, winning just three of its last nine games. That 70s line of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, and Tanner Pearson, which dazzled audiences earlier this season, has fizzled out and been broken up. Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik are finally clicking, but lately it often hasn’t been enough.

These last few years Los Angeles has been a team that’s at its best during the playoffs, but the Kings need to make it to the postseason for that to matter. Coming out of the holiday break last season, the Kings had a nine-point cushion in the battle for a playoffs spot, but going into this game, Los Angeles only has a two-point edge in the Wild Card race.

With that in mind this isn’t just a rivalry game for the Kings. It’s also a key opportunity to put some distance on their pre-holiday slump and start providing themselves with some breathing room.