The San Jose Sharks face a situation and opponent very familiar with the last game of their road trip against the Pacific Division-rival Los Angeles Kings. The pictured players are examined for their key role in the game's outcome.
After the first long road trip of the 2013-14 NHL season—five games to close October—San Jose's final stop was Los Angeles. The home team edge in this rivalry won out over the team with the stronger record for whom it would be just the first of five consecutive losses.
However, the Sharks have not yet decided whether this is an up or down period. They have won two of three but those are the only two wins in over two weeks (2-3-1). If this team is going to win 16 games and a Stanley Cup, they need to show they can be more consistent.
Right now in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, they may need to be more consistent just to make the postseason. Without a regulation win, San Jose would not move past Los Angeles in the Pacific Division standings and would not be in position for home-ice advantage in any round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
A win by the Kings would give them the best point percentage in the division. They would maintain an edge over the Sharks, St. Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks they are competing with for the best record so far in the 2013-14 NHL season.
With the narrow margin between elite teams in the Western Conference, home ice might determine who makes it to the Stanley Cup finals. With the first two rounds of the playoffs being almost certainly within the Pacific Division, rivalry games in December can make or break a season. The winner of this game will be the team that plays with that kind of urgency.