Apr 27, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings players celebrate a goal by right wing Justin Williams in the third period against the San Jose Sharks at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

It's a Statewide Affair as the Defending Champs Look to De-Fin the Resurgent Sharks

Previewing the Los Angeles Kings’ 2012-13 season:
Western Conference Semi Final vs. San Jose Sharks

After their opening-round victory over the St. Louis Blues on Friday night, the Los Angeles Kings knew that whoever they were to play in the second round, it would be a Battle of California. Who exactly the Kings would face wasn’t determined until late last night.

Had the Anaheim Ducks won Game 7 of their opening-round series against the visiting Detroit Red Wings, the Freeway Faceoff would carryover to the postseason for the first time ever. But since Detroit eliminated the Ducks, the Kings now have to settle with facing the San Jose Sharkswho they will meet for just the second time in playoff history.

Apr 27, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll (28) collides with San Jose Sharks defenseman Justin Braun (61) during the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The first time these two teams met in the postseason was the opening round of the 2011 playoffs when the Sharks ultimately won the series in six games after Joe Thornton’s overtime-winner quieted the Staples Center so much that you could hear a pin drop in the place.

While some fans have forgotten about this, I still have Thornton’s antics fresh in my mind as once he scored the series-winner against Los Angeles two years ago, he slid across the King crown at center ice on his back. While I understand that the rugged forward was celebrating his team’s win, I interpreted his slide as a sign of disrespect to the Kings and their fans and while I don’t expect payback in that regard, his actions then make this state rivalry a little more exciting now.

With 59 points, the fifth-place Kings finished just two points behind the sixth-place San Jose Sharks splitting their head-to-head matchup at two wins apiece – with the home team winning every time.

Heading into this series, the Los Angeles Kings find themselves in unfamiliar territory. For the first time since 1992, the Kings have home-ice advantage in a series so it will be interesting to see how the silver-and-black will fare in front of their home fans right off the bat.

Despite neither team having home-ice advantage in the first round, both the Sharks and Kings dominated their respective series. The Sharks swept the Vancouver Canucks in four straight while the Kings, despite losing the first two games of their series against the Blues, roared back to win four straight. So, something’s got to give when this series opens at Staples Center on Tuesday night.

Both teams anticipate their second-round series being much tougher than those in the opening round.

A lot has changed with both teams since their last playoff meeting in 2011 and this matchup should be a fascinating one as, unlike in 2011, a trip to the Western Conference Final will be on the line.

Can the Kings continue their championship defense on the right track or will it be the Sharks who build on their quest to complete the California Stanley Cup trifecta?

All this and many more questions will be answered beginning Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

Enjoy the series!

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Tags: 1992 2011 Antti Niemi Home Ice Advantage Joe Thornton Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semi Final

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