Western Conference quarterfinals
Kings (1-3) vs. San Jose Sharks (3-1) at HP Pavilion, 7:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Warning: This is not a recording: The Kings gave up six more goals Thursday night in Game 4, putting them on the doorstep of defeat in the best-of-seven series. What happened to the, eh hem, defense that was sixth out of 30 teams in goals-against average during the regular season? That’s the big question after back-to-back second-period implosions that turned the series around. The Kings allowed five goals to cough up a four-goal lead in the middle period of Game 3, and three straight goals to fall behind for good in Game 4. Some of the collapse could be traced to the season-ending injury of top-line center Anze Kopitar two weeks before the end of the regular season. He was pretty good at both ends.
2. The dirty dozen: Despite the barrage of goals, Kings coach Terry Murray remains adamant about keeping Jonathan Quick in front of the net. An analytical view of the 12 goals in the last two games would likely show Quick didn’t have much of a chance to stop any of them, but from a tactical aspect he’s getting beat badly. Quick has been playing great until San Jose gets its first goal, then the defense starts looking like bunch of lost seals and the Sharks pounce. They might be too good for any goalkeeper at this point, but it would be interesting to see what back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier could do.
3. Parse is back: Scott Parse has been one of those lonely guys in the corner of the locker room this postseason. He missed the first month of the season with a groin injury, came back in early November and scored four points in five games on Kopitar's line, but then had hip surgery related to the previous injury. Parse has been skating for a while and participating in practice since the start of the playoffs but surprised many Friday when he practiced on a line with center Michal Handzus and right wing Justin Williams. He was activated from injured reserve that afternoon and is expected to play in Saturday’s game. Hopefully, his defense is as good as his offense.
4. Odd men out?: With Parse scheduled to be penciled into the lineup and Kevin Westgarth impressing enough to stay on the fourth line, a new face or two is expected to take a seat in the press box as a healthy scratch Saturday night. Westgarth practiced on the fourth line Friday with Oscar Moller, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner. Two of those final four names would be scratched. Moller has only played Game 2, when Stoll was suspended for a hit on Ian White in Game 1, but it’s the only game the Kings have won in the series and his speed might be what the team needs. Penner has been a big disappointment since his trade from Edmonton but he’s still a 30-goal scorer. Decisions, decisions…
5. More blackouts: If the Kings don’t get back to scoring goals on the power play, it won’t matter if the defense rebounds or not. They were 21st in the league in power-play efficiency during the regular season but gave fans a sprinkle of hope by scoring three power-play goals in the first two playoff games. After going scoreless with the man advantage the last two games, however, they’re back to riding an 0-for-14 skid. It’s been stated many times before, but the Sharks are tough enough to beat 5-on-5, so opponents have to take advantage of every opportunity, big or small.