Despite not having their No. 1 goaltender, the Los Angeles Kings have been playing well on the road lately while the San Jose Sharks have looked good no matter where they’ve played.
In this series, though, home ice tends to matter more than most.
The Sharks look for a ninth consecutive home win over the Kings on Wednesday night in a series that has seen the host emerge with a victory 13 straight times.
San Jose (15-3-5) and Los Angeles (16-6-3) have developed a fairly intense rivalry with a pair of playoff series in the past three years, and one of the most interesting elements has been each side’s ability to protect home-ice advantage.
The past six regular-season meetings have been won by the home team, along with all seven in last season’s Western Conference semifinal series, which culminated with the Kings’ 2-1 victory.
Los Angeles also won 4-3 in overtime Oct. 30, rallying from three one-goal deficits before Anze Kopitar ended it with a power-play goal.
“It’s probably the closest you can get to playoff hockey this time of the year,” Kopitar said at the time. “… As usual when we play these guys, whoever wins the special teams usually comes out on top.”
That’s been the Kings more often than not. Los Angeles is 8 for 30 (26.7 percent) on the power play in the past 10 meetings while the Sharks have gone 5 for 33 (15.2 percent).
Though this meeting is at the SAP Center, the Kings should feel fairly good about their chances despite the fact that they’re 3 for 31 (9.7 percent) with the man advantage over the past nine games. Los Angeles won its fourth straight road game Monday night against Vancouver, getting a goal from Mike Richards with less than three minutes left in regulation before Kopitar’s overtime tally gave the Kings a 3-2 win.
Los Angeles is 7-0-3 in its last 10 games and has given up a total of nine goals in seven since finding out goaltender Jonathan Quick would miss a month with a strained groin.
“We’ve just got to scrape and claw for points, and that’s what we did,” Richards said. ”It wasn’t the prettiest on our part. We took too many penalties, and we turned some pucks over, but two points is what we wanted.”
Two points is what the Sharks - tied for second with the Kings in the Pacific Division - have been getting regularly over the past two weeks. San Jose finished a five-game road trip by winning three of four, and it’s won the first two on a five-game homestand by a combined 7-2.
The Sharks scored twice in the first period in Saturday’s 2-1 victory over New Jersey, a fast start that’s become common. They’ve outscored opponents 32-12 in the opening 20 minutes this season but have just a plus-7 differential the rest of the way.
“The guys are coming to the rink prepared,” coach Todd McLellan told the league’s official website. “They’re full of energy and want to use it. They play the game the right way early in the game, and then it can get away on us later on for whatever reason. It’s something that we have to fix.”
Both teams have had key players return to the lineup recently. Los Angeles forward Jeff Carter came back Monday after missing 10 games with a foot injury, while Sharks winger Brent Burns has had a point in each of his first two games back after missing a month with a facial injury.
Burns had two goals and six assists against the Kings in four 2013 regular-season meetings but just one goal in the playoff series.
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