Kings face familiar opponent in first round

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings will face a familiar opponent when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin.

For the second year in a row and the third time over the past four years, the Kings will face the San Jose Sharks in the postseason. Game 1 of the series will take place Thursday, April 17, at the SAP Center in San Jose.

While the Kings and Sharks have been division rivals since San Jose entered the league in 1991, they have only recently become playoff rivals, with this being their third meeting ever in the postseason, all since 2011.

The Sharks defeated the Kings in six games in the Western Conference quarterfinals in 2011. They missed each other in 2012 as the Kings steamrolled to their first Stanley Cup title, winning 10 straight road games. And last season, the Kings beat the Sharks in a grueling seven-game series in the Western Conference semifinals, where all but two games were decided by one goal.

The season series between the teams favors the Kings, 3-1-1, but the series could come down to home-ice advantage. When they met in the postseason last year, all seven games went to the home team. The Kings had the home-ice advantage last season; this season it belongs to the Sharks.

A big advantage for the Kings this time of year and a big reason for their strong postseason runs the past two years has been their stingy defense. It’s no different this season as Jonathan Quick is having a Vezina-caliber year; the Kings finished the season giving up the fewest goals in the NHL and won the William M. Jennings Trophy.

The Kings have needed that kind of defense and goalkeeping just to make the playoffs with an offense that was nonexistent during many stretches this season. The Kings acquired Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline to help shore up their scoring woes and he has delivered thus far, scoring 15 points since arriving in Los Angeles.