Tag Archives: Battle of California

November 12 – Day 40 – Battle of California

It’s amazing to think this is already the 40th day of NHL action. It feels like the Toronto-Winnipeg game to start the season was just a week or two ago.

While I figure out where the days have gone, take a look at today’s four-game schedule. The action begins – as it does most nights – at 7 p.m. as two contests (New Jersey at Chicago and Edmonton at Washington [NHLN/SN/TVAS]) drop the puck, followed by Tampa Bay at Anaheim an hour later. Finally, San Jose at Los Angeles finds its start at 10:30 p.m. to close out the evening’s festivities. All times Eastern.

There’s few things that get me as excited as a good rivalry game, and that’s especially true when it’s the only game featuring two teams in the top-half of the league, so it looks like we’re headed for the Staples Center for the second time in  four days.

 

 

 

 

 

In the same strain as the rivalries between the 49ers and Rams, the Chargers and Raiders, the Dodgers and Giants and the Earthquakes and Galaxy, the animosity between these clubs began by simply being linked geographically – but it has blossomed into something even fiercer over time.

One of the best fertilizers in growing a rivalry is playoff series, and these teams have met up four times in the past seven postseasons. Even though San Jose has gone 14-11 in the playoffs against the Kings, they have each won two series apiece against one another.

Go figure.

The most recent of those playoff meetings was in the First Round of the 2016 Western Conference Playoffs, and the Sharks showed absolutely no mercy. On the back of an eight-point performance by D Brent Burns and five goals from F Joe Pavelski, San Jose cruised to a 4-1 series victory en route to its first-ever appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Of course, that success against the Kings shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise considering how the regular season series played out: the Sharks won three of their five meetings against Los Angeles that season to snap a three-year streak of the Kings winning the season series, and has since built on that success by also winning last season’s Battle of California.

Unfortunately for San Jose, its quest for a three-peat in the series did not start as planned, as C Anze Kopitar‘s 2-1-3 night led the Kings to a 4-1 victory over the Sharks at the SAP Center on October 7.

If the 9-6-0 Sharks want to get back on track and earn their first win of the season against the Kings, they’ll need to get back to playing the elite defense that they’ve been known for this year. San Jose is home to the best goals against-per-game in the NHL, allowing only 2.33 tallies.

7-4-0 G Martin Jones certainly deserves some credit, as his .922 save percentage and 2.24 GAA is certainly nothing to scoff at and has easily earned him recognition as a top-10 goaltender so far. Then again, it’s not too hard to be a good netminder behind a defense that allows only 28.9 shots against-per-game, the second-best in the NHL. Whether it’s the nasty, physical effort of D Brenden Dillon – who averages 3.2 hits-per-game – or D Justin Braun and his 2.3 blocks-per-game, San Jose has held 10 of its 15 opponents to two goals or less.

Of note for the Sharks is their 5-0 victory last night against the Canucks. In addition to proving my point about their defense, it’s also important to acknowledge that 2-2-0 G Aaron Dell was in net, meaning that Jones will be rested and ready for the Kings.

If any team is going to be afraid of the Sharks’ defense, it’s definitely not the 11-3-2 Kings, because they also have an elite weapon in their defensive zone that has led them to a (t)second-best 2.44 goals against-per-game.

That weapon’s name is G Jonathan Quick, who has managed an incredible .932 save percentage and 2.29 GAA en route to a 9-3-1 record. Only G Corey Crawford has a superior save percentage than Quick, and it doesn’t look like American is slowing down anytime soon. Considering the Sharks manage only 2.73 goals-per-game, scoring is going to be at a premium anytime Quick is involved.

The Sharks played yesterday, but the fact that they saved Jones for this game speaks loudly about how seriously they take this matchup. This should be an excellent defensive contest that ends in two points for the home team and its seventh-ranked offense.


Though they needed a shootout, the Nashville Predators have finally exacted revenge against the Pittsburgh Penguins for defeating them in the Stanley Cup Finals by beating them 5-4 at Bridgestone Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day

One of the major events of the first period was W Conor Sheary getting caught holding D Matt Irwin‘s stick to earn two minutes in the penalty box, but it was not the Predators that took advantage of the odd-man advantage. Instead, W Bryan Rust (D Kris Letang) scored a shorthanded wrist shot with 8:02 remaining before the first intermission for the lone goal of the frame.

Almost all of Nashville’s offense was struck in the second period, as it scored three of its four regulation goals in the span of 3:28. The first belonged to First Star of the Game C Kyle Turris (W Miikka Salomaki), who buried a snap shot 2:01 into the frame to level the game at one-all. D P.K. Subban (Third Star F Filip Forsberg and W Viktor Arvidsson) followed that up 1:51 later with a power play slap shot, and Second Star F Craig Smith (Forsberg and F Ryan Johansen) potted a power play goal of his own at the 5:29 mark to give the Preds a 3-1 advantage.

The period didn’t entirely favor the Preds though. RW Phil Kessel (F Evgeni Malkin and Letang) pulled the Penguins back within a goal with 7:33 remaining in the second frame with a solid wrister.

Thanks to F Jake Guentzel‘s (D Justin Schultz) backhanded shot 2:27 into the third period, Pittsburgh tied the game at 3-3, but that score didn’t last long. Only 2:19 after Guentzel’s goal hit the scoreboard, C Calle Jarnkrok (Turris and Smith) returned a 4-3 lead to the Predators. The final goal of regulation belonged to D Brian Dumoulin (Sheary and Kessel), a snapper struck 7:43 into the third frame to once again tie the game.

Since neither side could find a tie-breaking goal in three-on-three overtime (even though Nashville had a 21 second power play due to Malkin tripping D Roman Josi), this tilt required the shootout to declare a winner.

  • Head Coach Peter Laviolette decided to give Turris, the Predators’ first goal scorer of the night, the opportunity to open the shootout. Turris proceeded to rip a shot over the crossbar.
  • Fresh off a seat in the penalty box, Malkin was Head Coach Mike Sullivan‘s first choice for Pittsburgh. The Russian performed slightly better than Turris since his wrister was at least on frame, but G Pekka Rinne was there to make the save.
  • Thank goodness for W Kevin Fiala, the Predators’ second shooter. He opened up the tiebreaker scoring by beating G Tristan Jarry with some slick stick handling.
  • Never one to be shown up (even though he didn’t register much more than five shots on goal in 22:39 of play), C Sidney Crosby matched Fiala’s goal with one of his own to level the shootout.
  • Nashville’s third – and ultimately final – shooter proved to be Forsberg. The forward made perfect use of his second shootout opportunity of the season to score his second shootout goal.
  • Forsberg’s tally set up a miss-and-lose situation for the Pens, so they sent out the obvious choice in this situation: Letang, who completely missed the net with his shot. It seems Kessel was ordering a hot dog at the time… or something.

Rinne earned the victory after saving 26-of-30 shots on goal (.867 save percentage), leaving the shootout loss to Jarry, who saved 24-of-28 (.857) and is still in search of his first NHL win after three starts.

With the Preds’ home victory, hosts in the DtFR Game of the Day series now have a 20-15-5 record that is two points better than the visitors.

January 18 – Day 95 – Battle of California

It’s time for some Wednesday hockey! The action begins at 7:30 p.m. with two contests (Arizona at Winnipeg and Pittsburgh at Montréal [RDS/SN1]), with Boston at Detroit (NBCSN/TVAS) waiting until 8 p.m. 9:30 p.m. marks the puck drop of Florida at Edmonton (SN1) and precedes this evening’s nightcap – San Jose at Los Angeles (NBCSN) – by an hour.

Short list:

  • Boston at Detroit: Not only is it an Original Six rivalry, but the Bruins were held out of last season’s playoffs due to losing a tiebreaker to the Wings.
  • San Jose at Los Angeles: This rivalry was made only more intense by the Sharks eliminating the Kings in last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

We’ve only made one trip to the Staples Center this season, and that’s just inexcusable. Let’s fix that by featuring the Battle of California tonight.

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We all know the Sharks‘ story last season. They won their first Western Conference title. They were within two games of hoisting one of, if not the most coveted piece of hardware in sports.

But fans – okay, most fans (sorry Angelenos!) – need to remember that according to seeding, San Jose had no business finding that success. The Sharks were the three seed in the Pacific Division, arguably the weakest division in the NHL. But they didn’t care. They blew up the Kings‘ trend of winning even-yeared Cups and cruised to a five-game Western Quarterfinals victory.

Tonight, the Sharks return to the very surface they clinched that series victory on for the third time this season. They’re 1-1-0 in Los Angeles this season, and lead the overall season series against the Kings 2-1-1.

San Jose makes the trip to the City of Angels with a 26-16-2 record, good enough for third-place in the Pacific Division. They’ve found that success by playing a phenomenal combination of defense and goaltending to allow only 102 goals against, the fourth-fewest in the NHL.

Every defensive feature has to start with the goaltender, and 22-14-2 Martin Jones is no slouch. He’s notched a .916 save percentage for a 2.25 GAA, the (t)20th and (t)sixth-best efforts, respectively, in the league among the 41 goalies with 19 or more appearances.

A good GAA paired with a less-than-impressive save percentage is almost always due to a fantastic defense, and San Jose is not exception. Thanks to Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s team-leading 81 blocks, the Sharks have allowed only 27 shots-per-game to reach Jones’ crease, the third-best average in the league.

If the Sharks could improve on one aspect of their game, it would have to be the power play where they rank ninth-worst after converting only 16.5% of their opportunities. Joe Pavelski has been most-responsible for the little success his squad has found with a team-leading 14 power play points, yet it’s been Logan Couture who’s stricken the most fear into opposing goaltenders with his seven man-advantage goals. Unfortunately, he injured his upper body on Monday against the Jets and could miss tonight’s contest. If he does, the “power play striker” role shifts to Brent Burns, who has five extra-man goals to his credit.

Hosting this evening are the 22-18-4 Kings, the fifth-best team in the Pacific Division. Just like their rivals, Los Angeles plays a some phenomenal defense and goaltending to allow only 107 goals, the fifth-fewest in the league.

20-12-3 Peter Budaj continues to do a good job standing in for the injured Jonathan Quick this season, notching a .917 save percentage and 2.09 GAA – the 19th and fifth-best efforts, respectively, among the 44 netminders with 18 or more appearances.

Although Budaj has been good, his bluelines have been better. Led by Alec Martinez‘ 93 shot blocks, the Kings have allowed only 25.8 shots-per-game to reach Budaj’s net, easily the best rate in the NHL.

Unlike San Jose, the Kings‘ defensive success has carried into the penalty kill. Los Angeles refuses to yield a tally after 83.2% of their penalties, the ninth-best effort in the league. Once again, Martinez has been at the core of the blueline’s play with a team-leading 24 shorthanded shot blocks.

Unfortunately, the Kings‘ power play has not been able to maintain the special teams reputation of success. They’ve converted only 16.9% of their opportunities for goals, which ties for 10th-worst in the NHL. Jeff Carter has tried as hard as he can with his team-leading 11 power play points, but only Drew Doughty has joined him in his push. Carter also leads the club in power play goals with seven.

Some players to watch this evening include Los Angeles‘ Budaj (four shutouts [fourth-most in the league] and a 2.09 GAA [sixth-best in the NHL] for 20 wins [eighth-most in the league]) and Carter (23 goals [second-most in the NHL]) & San Jose‘s Burns (45 points [tied for fifth-most in the league]) and Jones (22 wins [tied for fourth-most in the NHL] on a 2.25 GAA [tied for eighth-best in the league]).

I like San Jose to come to Hollywood to earn the victory. It will certainly be a tight, defensive matchup that will only be solved by the superior offense. Compared to the Kings‘ 2.5 goals-scored average, the Sharks average 2.61 goals per game should be enough to earn them the victory.

Hockey Birthday

  • Syl Apps (1915-1998) – This Hall of Fame center played all of his 10 seasons in Toronto. He had a habit of collecting hardware, including three Stanley Cups, the 1937 Calder Trophy and the 1942 Byng Trophy.
  • Mark Messier (1961-) – Drafted 48th-overall in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft by Edmonton, this Hall of Fame forward played in 15 All Star games over his 25 NHL seasons. The longtime Oiler hoisted the Stanley Cup six times, as well as two Hart Trophies, two Pearsons and the 1984 Smythe.
  • Ruslan Fedotenko (1979-) – Even though he went undrafted, this left wing played 863 games over his dozen seasons, most of which in Tampa Bay. The two-time Stanley Cup champion scored 366 points before hanging up his skates the last time.
  • Brian Gionta (1979-) – A third-round pick by New Jersey in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, this right wing is in his third season in Buffalo. He was on the 2003 Devils squad that won the Stanley Cup.
  • Alex Pietrangelo (1990-) – The lone non-champion on today’s list, this defenseman was drafted fourth-overall by St. Louis in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He’s never played a game without the Blue Note on his chest, and was awarded the Blues‘ captaincy in August.

I sure do love a one-goal game, and that’s what we got in Vancouver yesterday for the DtFR Game of the Day as the Canucks beat the visiting Predators 1-0.

That winning tally wasn’t struck until only 7:32 remained in regulation. Second Star of the Game Henrik Sedin (Luca Sbisa and Loui Eriksson) takes credit with a solid wrister to beat Third Star Pekka Rinne.

First Star Ryan Miller earns the shutout victory after turning away all 30 shots he faced, leaving the disappointing loss to Rinne after saving 25-of-26 (96.2%).

The Canucks‘ shutout victory is the first in the DtFR Game of the Day series since the Philadelphia-San Jose game on December 30. Just like in that game, the home team won, improving the hosts’ record to 51-32-14, seven points better than the visitors.

October 12 – Opening Day – What to choose?

The day we’ve all been waiting for is finally upon us: Opening day of the NHL season.  It’s time to see if *insert the name of your favorite team’s GM here* made any good decisions during the off-season, or if you’ll just spend the next seven months cursing at your television set.

Oh wait, you’ll be doing that even if your team is good?  Carry on, then.

Just like last year’s opener, we’ve got four games on the docket.  Some stats about them?  Sure, I thought you’d never ask!

Two contests will occur in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, and the other two will be under the red and white maple leaf where many citizens of the first nation might be headed after November’s election.  Similarly, no teams will be crossing any national borders, meaning that it will be American vs. American and Canadian vs. Canadian clubs.  Each timezone will also be represented in this evening’s festivities, beginning in Eastern time and traveling across the map towards the Pacific.

Tonight will feature Toronto visiting Ottawa in the Battle of Ontario at 7 p.m. (SN and TVAS), followed an hour later by St. Louis at Chicago (NBCSN).  10 p.m. marks the puck drop of Calgary at Edmonton (SN and TVAS2), the first installment of the Battle of Alberta this year, followed half an hour later by Los Angeles at San Jose (NBCSN) to start this season’s Battle of California.  All times eastern.

Which one to pick… which one to pick…

I know: all of them.

That’s right, each game is too special not to watch this evening, so we’re going to break tradition (does a series only in its second year have traditions?) and feature all four of tonight’s games.  So without further to do, let’s get some quick previews in before you get watching.

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This game is a special one not simply because of the rivalry that exists between these squads, but that it is also the first official game that the Leafs will be sporting their new logo as well as the first wearing of their road whites.  As explained here, the level of symbolism in the new crest is pretty cool, including references to the 1931 opening of the Maple Leaf Gardens (hint: count the points of the leaf), the 1917 foundation of the franchise and their 13 Stanley Cup titles (hint: count the veins, and note a majority of their locations above the word mark).

Beyond that, this is also a rivalry game, and probably one of the four most circled dates on the Sens‘ calendar (the other three being the remainder of this series).  Ottawa swept the season series last year and certainly has intentions of continuing that success after the summer break.

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If you’re a little bit old-school and enjoy a good hockey scrap, this is probably your game this evening – this series leads the league in fights and penalty minutes.

This has been one of the best rivalries in recent years, and that has only intensified – twice – since the end of April, which witnessed St. Louis beating the Blackhawks in Game 7 to advance to the Western Semifinals, and eventually the Western Finals.  Chicago will look to exact revenge against a Notes squad that ended their title defense earlier than they would have liked.

Further dirtying the waters, the Blues and Blackhawks played a preseason game only 11 days ago. My opinions on division rivals contesting exhibitions deserves another post, but the net result was a questionable blow from Niklas Hjalmarsson against Ty Rattie. The defenseman was suspended for the remainder of the preseason as well as tonight’s game for throwing a leaping shoulder at the right wing’s head. Although he was not injured, Rattie’s linemates were quick to converge on Hjalmarsson, and I fully expect there to be some carryover both tonight and November 9 after the defenseman returns.

Unknown-4200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svgThe third of our four rivalries this evening, this edition of the Battle of Alberta is special in a similar way to the Battle of Ontario.  This will be the first official game played in Rogers Place after 42 years at Rexall Place, and what better way to commemorate it than with naming Connor McDavid the youngest captain in NHL history.

And you thought Sidney Crosby was a baby-faced captain.

The Oil‘s new home, located almost dead-center in downtown Edmonton, increases their seating capacity by almost 2000 and moves them to the bottom of the list of oldest arenas – a list they ranked second in a year ago.

Speaking of new beginnings, the Oilers hope to continue rebuilding towards the days of old with this year’s first rounder, Jesse Puljujärvi.  Perhaps this game will be a sampler of how Todd McLellan intends to use his offensive youngsters this season.

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The final game of the night should be one of the better ones.  The Battle of California has extended into the playoffs for three of the last four seasons, including San Jose advancing to the Western Semifinals, and eventually the Stanley Cup Finals, over the Kings in five games last season.  This should be a fantastic game, one well worth staying awake for if you’re tuning in from the East Coast.

Best of luck to your team if they’re playing this evening.  If not, we’ll see you tomorrow!

Hockey Birthday

  • Jaroslav Drobný (1921-2001) – Tennis aficionados are raising their eyebrows at this one. Drobný may be more commonly known for his three major titles (including two French Opens), but he was also a highly successful amateur hockey player. In 1947, he was a part of the Czechoslovakian team that took gold at the World Ice Hockey Championships, where he scored 15 goals in seven games, including a hat trick against the Stars and Stripes. He also helped Czechoslovakia to the silver medal in the Winter Olympics a year later, “falling” to Canada in a goalless championship game. He scored nine goals in eight games in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Drobný impressed the Boston Bruins in that tournament, and they offered him a $20,000 contract. If he hadn’t declined to focus on his tennis career, he would’ve been the first European to play in the NHL (instead, Swede Ulf Sterner takes that title, joining the Rangers 16 years later in 1965). He was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1997.
  • Denis Brodeur (1930-2013) – Father of Devils‘ legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur, Denis also knew his way around the crease. He was on the Canadian team that took bronze in the 1956 Winter Olympics at Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy.
  • J.J. Daigneault (1965) – The defender made his NHL debut during the 1984-’85 season with Vancouver, but the 10-team journeyman will be most known for his days with the Canadiens. He played six seasons and seven games in Montréal, 39% of his 900 regular season-game career. He currently serves as an assistant coach with the Habs, a position he’s held since 2012.
  • Dwayne Roloson (1969) – This goaltender made his NHL debut during the 1996-’97 season with the Calgary Flames. He played in 606 regular season games, most of which were with the Edmonton Oilers (193 games over four seasons).
  • Mike Green (1985) – Although this is his second season in Detriot, this will be the defenseman’s 12th season in the league. Most of that time was spent in Washington, where he played in 575 regular season games and seven postseasons.
  • Sean Monahan (1994) – Entering Year Four of his career, Monahan has gotten his start in Calgary. The sixth player selected in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the center has appeared in 237 regular season games already and has 159 points his credit. Also, this kid is younger than me, so take that for what it’s worth.

March 28 – Day 165 – Battle of California

It may have taken overtime, but the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Rangers 3-2 in New York to win the season series 3-1-0.

4:19 after dropping the opening puck, Second Star of the Game Eric Staal backhanded a goal after assists from Kevin Hayes and Jesper Fast (his 17th helper of the season), but the Blueshirts could not enter the intermission with the lead.  Matt Cullen leveled the game with 4:11 remaining in the period for the Penguins, assisted by Derrick Pouliot and Trevor Daley (his 20th helper of the season).  The one-all score held into the break.

It was a night of early starts for Staal, as he scored only 2:07 after returning to the ice, assisted by Fast and Hayes (his 22nd helper of the season) to give the Rangers another lead.  They held onto that differential for only 6:29 before First Star Phil Kessel scored his 23rd goal of the season, assisted by Carl Hagelin, to again level the score for Pittsburgh.  Not only did the 2-2 score hold into the dressing room, but also to the final horn of regulation, forcing overtime.

With only 30 seconds remaining in the overtime period, Third Star Sidney Crosby scored the game winner, assisted by Kris Letang (his 43rd helper of the season) and Kessel, to pull the Pens within three points of second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Marc-Andre Fleury earns the win after saving 25 of his 27 shots faced (92.6%), while Henrik Lundqvist takes the overtime loss, saving 29 of 32 (90.6%).

Pittsburgh‘s win is the second straight for the road teams, setting the DtFR Game of the Day series at 74-43-18, favoring the home sides by 30 points over the roadies.

Eight games will take place this Monday evening, starting with two at 7 p.m. eastern (Winnipeg at Philadelphia and Columbus at Washington), followed half an hour later by another pair (Buffalo at Detroit [NBCSN] and Toronto at Tampa Bay [TVAS]).  Colorado at Nashville drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern, with Anaheim at Edmonton trailing an hour later.  Finally, our co-nightcaps get underway at 10 p.m. eastern (Calgary at Arizona and Los Angeles at San Jose [NBCSN]).

Almost all of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (only Winnipeg at Philadelphia isn’t), but only one is between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (Los Angeles at San Jose).

As usual, Detroit and Philadelphia have the opportunity to swap spots for the final wildcard, but the game I’m more interested in takes place in The Tank.

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This will be Los Angeles‘ eighth appearance in the Game of the Day series, where they own a 3-4-0 record.  Their most recent time featured was last Monday, when they lost 5-2 in Nashville.  San Jose has been featured six times before tonight’s game, and own a 4-2-0 record in such occasions.  Last time we focused on them, they won 6-3 in St. Louis on February 22.

The 45-25-5 Los Angeles Kings currently occupy the top spot in the Pacific Division and third in the Western Conference (due to winning a games played tiebreaker over Chicago).  To get to that position, they’ve allowed the second fewest goals, paired with an offense that has scored the 13th most goals.  A more in-depth breakdown of LA‘s game can be found within last Monday’s article.

The Kings last played Saturday to a 6-4 home win over the Islanders.  With a win tonight, they have the opportunity to expand their lead for the division over Anaheim to five points, but they will need some help from Edmonton.

The 41-28-6 San Jose Sharks are the third best team in the Pacific Division, and seventh best in the Western Conference.  So far this season they’ve scored the fourth most goals in the league, paired with the 13th stingiest defense.

Led by Brent Burns’ 324 shots, the Sharks have fired the puck 2278 times, with a great 9.5% finding the back of the net for 219 goals (led by Joe Pavelski’s 35 tallies), fourth most in the NHL.  San Jose‘s power play has followed suit, scoring on 22.09% of their attempts for 55 power play goals (led by Pavelski’s 11 extra man tallies), the fourth best rate in the league.

The Sharks have also done well to keep pressure off their goaltenders, allowing only 2041 shots to reach 35-21-4 Martin Jones and co., who’ve collectively saved 91.4% for 196 goals against, the 13th fewest in the league.  San Jose‘s biggest problem this year has been their penalty kill, as their 79.91% kill rate, which has allowed 43 power play goals against, ranks eighth worst in the league.

San Jose enters today’s game riding a three game losing skid, with their last being Saturday’s 4-2 home loss to the Stars.  With a win tonight, they could pull within two points of second in the division and home ice for the quarterfinals, but, just like Los Angeles, are pulling for an Edmonton win this evening over the Ducks.

San Jose currently leads the season series 2-1-1 going into this pivotal fifth game.  The last times these squads met was also in the SAP Center, where Los Angeles won 3-2 in overtime on January 24.

Some players to keep an eye on include Los Angeles‘ Anze Kopitar (+31 [tied for second best in the league] and 68 points [10th most in the league]), Jonathan Quick (38 wins [second most in the league], 2.21 GAA [tied for fifth best in the league] and four shutouts [tied for seventh most in the league]) and Tyler Toffoli (+33 [leads the league]) & San Jose‘s Jones (35 wins [tied for third most in the league], five shutouts [tied for third most in the league] and 2.25 GAA [seventh best in the league]), Pavelski (35 goals [tied for fifth most in the league], +26 [tied for eighth best in the league] and 71 points [ninth most in the league]) and Joe Thornton (55 assists [tied for second most in the league], 72 points [eighth most in the league] and +26 [tied for eighth best in the league]).

This is always a fun game, and the almost even season record between these two shows that.  Even though they’re on the road, I think the Kings have this one, most notably due to San Jose‘s recent cold stretch.