Western Conference quarterfinals
Kings (1-2) vs. San Jose Sharks (2-1) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Looking ahead, sort of – As much as the Kings want everyone to believe that there’s no looking back at the great collapse in Game 3, that’s a little difficult when it's the main topic of conversation on NHL message boards and broadcasts. The Kings blew a four-goal second-period lead Tuesday night and kissed off a chance to take a 2-1 series lead when Devin Setoguchi scored in overtime to lift the Sharks to a 6-5 victory. Stunned silence was the best way to describe the locker room after the game, but the Kings did manage to look unfazed during practice Wednesday. Only time will tell if there’s any residual effect.
2. Penner keeps spot – Onlookers were a bit surprised to see Dustin Penner practicing with the top line Wednesday. Let’s face it, Penner has been a bust since he came over from Edmonton in late February in a trade for defensive prospect Colten Teubert, a first-round pick in June and a conditional third-round pick in 2012. Penner did contribute an assist in Game 3 for his first point in 15 games, but he was the player caught chasing Setoguchi on the game-winning goal. Penner has been bouncing between the first and fourth lines the last couple games, though many have been calling for Penner to take a seat in the press box.
3. Quick hook? – An area to watch closely is the goalkeeper crease. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick matched his career high by allowing six goals in Game 3, though it was difficult to find any that were a direct result of Quick’s play. Still, coach Terry Murray will likely have a short leash with Quick, who tends to let things snowball when they get out of hand. Any more than two goals in the opening period and Quick should probably head for the bench. The good thing is the Kings have a quality back up in Jonathan Bernier. The bad thing is he hasn’t played in 2 ½ weeks.
4. About face – Just when Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was beginning to look like the Norris Trophy finalist of a year ago, he pulled a Brett Favre in Game 4 and took a step back. Doughty was a team-high minus-three for the game, the third time in the last six weeks he has hit that mark, and had two giveaways. Doughty vowed after the game that the Kings would never blow a lead like that again. Of course, the Kings might not get another lead like that again.
5. Niemi or Niittymaki? – The Sharks have a tough decision who to put in goal as well. Antti Niemi was yanked at the start of the second period after allowing his fourth goal of the game, and fellow Fin Antero Niittymaki came in and steadied things long enough for the Sharks to get back in the game. Niemi led the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup title last season and the Sharks picked him up in the offseason for his playoff experience, but he could be getting worn down after starting all but one game since mid-January.