Three things to watch in critical Kings-Sharks series

LA Kings (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports) /

The LA Kings can leapfrog the Sharks in the West Division standings with a sweep this weekend. Here are three things to monitor in the two-game set.

After taking three of a possible four points in the first two games, the LA Kings have dropped their last four against the San Jose Sharks. As a result, Los Angeles has plummeted in the West Division standings while the Sharks are flirting with a playoff spot, something nobody expected them to do this season.

This weekend, the Kings and Sharks will wrap up their season series at the SAP Center in San Jose. The series has enormous implications for both clubs because a clean sweep could inch them closer to the Coyotes for the fourth and final playoff spot.

Here are three things to watch in the two-game set.

1. Special Teams Woes

The Kings have to find a way to be productive on the man advantage. In the last four games against the Sharks, Todd McLellan’s group is 0-for-11 on the powerplay. Once in the top ten for powerplay percentage, Los Angeles has dipped to the middle of the pack in the NHL with a 22.0 percent conversion rate. Going back to their third meeting of the season, the Kings went 0-for-5 on the powerplay.

Their penalty kill remains a top-five unit, at an 84.7 percent kill-off rate. With Brendan Lemieux inserted into the lineup to help draw penalties, the Kings have to convert if the opportunity presents itself.

2. Avoid second period collapse

In the four-game losing streak to the Sharks, the Kings have been outscored five to two in the second period. They’ve been outscored three to one in the first period, which is pretty on par with how their season has gone. It’s been a mixed bag whether the team can come back, but San Jose has used some big second periods to either put the game on ice or keep their foot on the gas. Kings need a great start and continued intensity – there’s that buzzword – throughout this series.

A complete 60 minutes.

3. Can the Kings bring Martin Jones back down to earth?

The Kings have been unable to solve Martin Jones this season. The former Los Angeles netminder seems to have a personal vendetta against his old club, going 18-5-3 in his career against the Kings. He’s started all six games in the season series this year, posting a 5-1 record with a .932 SV% and 2.37 GAA. After the two-game sweep at the Staples Center last weekend, Jones was named the NHL’s second star of the week for his efforts.

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The Kings have had trouble creating traffic in front of Jones, as much of their recent heatmaps have reflected a lot of activity well beyond the goal crease. You saw what happened in the Coyotes series finale when Todd McLellan’s group can obscure the goalie’s vision, two deflected goals in their comeback victory.

Traffic in front of Jones will be key to winning this series.