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SJ Sharks and LA Kings will be tested in first round of Stanley Cup Playoffs

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The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings start their playoff series on Thursday in San Jose; even though it’s a #7 seed against a #2 seed, it’s a match-up that is too close to call.

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They split six games during the regular season with two of the Kings victories decided by shootouts.

In two of the Sharks victories they scored six goals, one of which being when they last met at the end of the regular season on April 4, winning decisively, 6-1.

With each team winning 2-of-3 at home, there will be a slight home-ice advantage which would give the Sharks the edge if it were to go to seven games.

In all three of their losses against the Kings, the Sharks tallied three goals or fewer.

Kings’ goalies Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier have split more games this year, by design, that may have paid dividends for the Kings.

After playing 72 games last year, Quick remarked, "I thought at the time last year I felt good going into the playoffs. I felt fine," Quick said, before he added that, "I do notice I do feel a little bit better."

This year, coach Terry Murray reduced Quick’s workload to 61 games to have his young goaltender ready for the playoffs with last year’s season-end record of 0-3-3 in the back of his mind.

Justin Williams, one of the team’s leaders in points, practiced with the team three weeks after dislocating his shoulder. He is hopeful to be in the lineup on Thursday.

The extra day before the playoffs start will help, “I’m happy to have another day. I thought we’d start on Wednesday” Williams said after a practice.

“I’ll get into some more intense battling this week and we’ll go from there. Then coach and I and the training staff will make a decision on whether I can go or not.”

With leading-scorer Anze Kopitar out for the season and the uncertainty of Williams availability, the pressure will be on the goaltenders to come up big for the Kings if they are to advance past the first round.

The Sharks enter the playoffs with five 60-point scorers and momentum in finishing off the regular season by winning twelve of their last nineteen games.

The Sharks trio of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley combined for 207 points with Marleau leading the team in goals scored with 37. More importantly, all remained healthy and with the addition of Rookie of the Year, Logan Couture, the Sharks look to have the fire-power to advance.

The series may be decided each teams’ proficiency in power play situations: the Sharks tied for second in the NHL at 23.5 percent efficiency while their penalty killing was near the bottom at 79.6 percent.

For the Kings, already without Anze Kopitar in the line-up, they realize they’ll need a strong defensive effort; a strategy that worked for them in the regular season.

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