WATCH LIVE: Sharks host Kings on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Saturday afternoon’s matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks with coverage beginning at 4 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

This is the second of four meetings between the two clubs this season, with San Hose edging out the Kings 3-2 in overtime on Oct. 5 with Kevin Labanc‘s winner.

The visiting Kings are coming off a convincing 4-1 win against the Western Conference-leading Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, and will look to build off their solid effort in that game. The Kings rank last in goals per game at 2.23, 28th on the power play at 13.9% and 29th on the penalty kill at 74.8%.

Interestingly enough, the Sharks lost 5-3 to the Jets their last time out on Thursday, ending a five-game winning streak. The Sharks have still enjoyed a solid December month, going 7-3-0 so far.

The Sharks sit second in the Pacific, four points behind the Calgary Flames. Joe Pavelski leads the Sharks with 22 goals this season, matching his total through 81 games last year. He’s on pace for 50 and is tied for the seventh most goals (306) since the start of the 2008-09 season.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 4 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks
Where: SAP Center
When: Saturday, Dec. 22, 4 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Kings-Sharks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

KINGS

Alex IafalloAnze KopitarDustin Brown
Adrian KempeJeff CarterTyler Toffoli
Brendan LeipsicNate ThompsonIlya Kovalchuk
Austin WagnerMichael AmadioMatt Luff

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty
Jake MuzzinSean Walker
Daniel BrickleyOscar Fantenberg

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

SHARKS

Evander Kane – Joe Pavelski – Joonas Donskoi
Tomas HertlLogan CoutureTimo Meier
Marcus SorensenJoe Thornton – Kevin Labanc
Lukas RadilBarclay GoodrowMelker Karlsson

Radim SimekBrent Burns
Brenden DillonErik Karlsson
Marc-Edouard VlasicJustin Braun

Starting goalie: Martin Jones

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kings’ problems run far deeper than their coach

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The Los Angeles Kings put an end to the John Stevens era on Sunday afternoon, firing the coach just 13 games into his second season behind their bench. Given how horrendous they looked in their first-round playoff exit a year ago, and how much they have struggled this season, some sort of a change somewhere in the organization seemed inevitable. The coach is usually the first place teams look in a last-ditch effort to save a season that is teetering on the brink of falling apart.

Maybe Stevens wasn’t the right coach for the Kings.

Maybe the team needed a different voice and some new ideas and a new approach and a new system.

But even if all of that is true there should be no mistaking that the Kings’ decision on Sunday is nothing more than a short-term band-aid on what has become a run-of-the-mill franchise with a growing list of long-term problems.

[Related: Kings fire John Stevens]

Last February I argued that the Kings were one of the aging, veteran teams in the NHL that were in dire need of a top-to-bottom overhaul. They were short on high-end talent, short on youth, short on speed, and still trying to play a brand of hockey from an era that no longer exists.

Their solution over the summer: To bring a 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk back from Russia following a five year absence from the NHL.

And that was it.

And while Kovalchuk has been as good as the Kings could have possibly expected him to be (he actually leads the team in scoring with 11 points in 13 games), he alone was never going to be enough to fix a stagnant offense that looked like it was playing a completely different, and not to mention vastly inferior, game than the Vegas team that skated circles around them in the playoffs. An offense that has finished higher than 14th in goals scored once over the past decade. An offense that, more often than not, is in the bottom-five of the league.

Unless he brought a time machine back from Russia that could transport him back to 2009 he was not going to be able to make the Kings younger or faster, two of the biggest issues currently plaguing the current organization. He was just going to be another mid-30s player that is a fraction of his former dominant self on a team built around mid-30s players that are fractions of their once dominant selves.

Here is the current situation the Kings are facing on the day they fired their coach.

  • They are at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, already eight points out of a playoff spot, and facing a daunting mountain when it comes to making the postseason. This after missing the playoffs in two of the previous four seasons and not making it out of the first round since 2014.
  • They are the second oldest team in the NHL and still play at a glacial pace.
  • They have one of the biggest salary cap numbers in the league and do not have any big contracts coming off the books after this season.
  • They only have three players on the roster right now under the age of 25 that have appeared in more than eight games this season. Those three players — Austin Wagner, Michael Amadio, and Adrian Kempe — are all averaging less than 12 minutes of ice-time per game and have combined for three points this season.
  • They have seven players over the age of 31 signed for at least three more seasons.
  • The key players that are still in the prime of their careers, specifically Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, are simply … okay. They are decent middle-six players, but if either one of them ever gives you 50 points in a season it would be considered a huge success. They are not core players to build around.

Anything there that excites you?

Just about the best thing you could say about this Kings team right now to offer any sort of short-term hope is that Anze Kopitar has yet to play his best hockey this season, and that they are finally getting Dustin Brown back in the lineup after he missed the first month of the season.

But is Brown going to be able to repeat his 2017-18 performance, which is looking like a pretty significant outlier given where his career has gone over the past four years? Is Kopitar going to be able to provide enough offense to drag the rest of the team behind him again?

And that’s not even getting into the fact they are going to be playing backup goalies for the next few weeks as Jonathan Quick remains sidelined.

Whether it is John Stevens, or Willie Desjardins, or some yet-to-be-named coach that is sitting at home waiting for a phone call, it is going to be a huge ask to expect them to make something out of this current setup.

Even after firing the coach, the Kings are still a team in need of a rebuild.

It is a team that has been in need of a rebuild for maybe two years now.

Unfortunately for them no one in the organization seems to realize it yet.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

WATCH LIVE: Red Wings at Kings

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Detroit Red Wings

Tyler BertuzziHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist

Darren HelmDylan LarkinAnthony Mantha

Justin AbdelkaderFrans NielsenAndreas Athanasiou

Martin FrkLuke Glendening — Evgeny Svechnikov

Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley

Dan DeKeyserNick Jensen

Niklas KronwallMike Green

Starting goalie: Jared Coreau

[Red Wings – Kings preview.]

Los Angeles Kings

Alex IafalloAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tobias RiederJeff CarterTrevor Lewis

Tanner PearsonAdrian KempeTyler Toffoli

Kyle CliffordMichael AmadioNate Thompson

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Dion PhaneufAlec Martinez

Jake Muzzin — Paul LaDue

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Vegas Golden Knights

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Los Angeles Kings

Alex IafalloAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tanner PearsonJeff CarterTyler Toffoli

Tobias RiederAdrian KempeNate Thompson

Kyle CliffordMichael AmadioTorrey Mitchell

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Dion PhaneufAlec Martinez

Jake MuzzinChristian Folin

Starting goalie: Jack Campbell

[Kings – Golden Knights preview.]

Vegas Golden Knights

Jonathan MarchessaultWilliam KarlssonReilly Smith

David PerronErik HaulaJames Neal

Alex TuchCody EakinTomas Tatar

Ryan ReavesRyan CarpenterTomas Nosek

Luca SbisaNate Schmidt

Shea TheodoreDeryk Engelland

Colin MillerBrayden McNabb

Starting goalie: Maxime Lagace