EL SEGUNDO—Kings defenseman Jack Johnson said the key to defeating the San Jose Sharks in their best-of-seven first-round series beginning Thursday in San Jose is creating more offense.
Across the locker room at Toyota Sports Center, right wing Justin Williams had a completely different opinion.
“Obviously, good defense,” he said.
Where everyone does agree, the Kings need to find a way to outscore the Pacific Division champions. Not an easy task these days.
They enter the first ever Kings-Sharks playoff series severely handicapped up front due to a season-ending ankle injury to leading scorer Anze Kopitar and the questionable status of Williams, who is tied for second on the team with 57 points despite missing the last nine games with a dislocated right shoulder.
San Jose, meanwhile, has been clicking on all cylinders for three months now, owning a league-best 27-6-4 record since Jan. 15.
“They’re a good team, no question about it,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be a tough series. They’re big and strong and fast.”
Several players were confident they could generate offense by sticking with their blue-collar grind-it-out system, where goals are generated through hard work along the boards and a willingness to stand in front of the net.
“Create a little havoc,” said left wing Ryan Smyth, who has scored his team’s last two goals while camped out near the opposing goalie.
Others said it starts with attitude and work ethic. When the Kings don’t give 100%, it’s obvious. They don’t have the skill level to cruise through a game and still get a victory, especially in the postseason. They glided through a game last week in San Jose and lost, 6-1.
“We can’t have off-shifts because [the Sharks] have a great team offensively and they can hurt you a lot of ways,” said center Michal Handzus. “So just play the same way, 60-plus minutes, don’t give up much and just grind, grind, grind, like when we won the games the last month of the season.”
Of course, it would help if the Kings took advantage of their opportunities. They have one power-play goal in their last 24 man-advantage situations, a streak that dates back to the game Kopitar was injured. They ended the regular season ranked 21st out of 30 teams in power-play efficiency.
“We’ve got to bury our opportunities,” said defenseman Drew Doughty.
Even then, they could probably use a lucky bounce or two.