The Los Angeles Kings are in Northern California for the third time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history – good morning, Oakland Seals! – and will continue their second round series against the San Jose Sharks at 6:00 Saturday evening inside the unfriendly borders of HP Pavilion, which has developed a reputation as being one of the louder arenas in the Western Conference circuit since hosting its first National Hockey League game in 1993.
“I always like playing there,” said Brad Richardson, who tied for the team lead in scoring with five points against the Sharks in the 2011 Western Conference Quarterfinals.
“The fans are [some] of the loudest in the league. They’re good on home ice. I think they have a little more confidence up there, so they usually come out pretty hard. Definitely it’ll be something that we’ve got to push back at the start and bring it to them.”
Though the Kings won two of the three games at HP Pavilion in the teams’ 2011 series, their overall road record in the rivalry isn’t one to boast about. Including that series, Los Angeles is 10-18-6 in the last 34 trips to San Jose.
“They always have a good start, and the crowd gets into it pretty quick,” Anze Kopitar said. “We want to make sure we match their intensity and desperation and play with a lot of emotion.”
Are we now at the point in time where HP Pavilion is referred to as one of the “old buildings” in the NHL? Darryl Sutter seemed to think so. Sutter, who coached the Sharks from 1997 through December, 2002, referenced the intimacy of the seating area and one of the smaller capacities as a means of trapping the noise and emotion within the building.
On Friday, he was asked whether HP Pavilion had created “an advantage” for the Sharks while he was the coach.
“Once we became a good team,” he answered. “That’s where it does make a difference. And it’s one of the old buildings that’s right on top of you. That’s still the biggest difference in the home/road. Everybody makes a big deal about it. Quite honest, most of the buildings are generic, just different colors. But that one’s still one of the old ones. Chicago was able to recapture, pull the emotion across the road again. San Jose is one of the smaller buildings that has a way of noise staying there, and that’s still one of the fun parts.”
Though the Kings take a two-to-nothing series lead into a challenging road environment, it doesn’t change anything in terms of preparation and execution.
“To me, I couldn’t care less if we were up, down, tied, whatever,” Sutter said. “You’re still trying to get everybody to play their best games, that’s all.”