Games between the Los Angeles Kings and rival San Jose Sharks by default have an amplified intensity, and given the window dressings surrounding the Sharks’ 5-1 opening night win at Staples Center, one would imagine that the SAP Center on Thursday will be an emotion-augmented center of sound and fury.
Unless, of course, you speak with the players on both teams, who downplayed the footnotes to San Jose’s opening night win.
“I think people draw a lot of attention to the intensity of the series,” said Dustin Brown, who laid an un-penalized hit on Logan Couture on opening night that drew outside scrutiny, but not supplemental league discipline. “At the end of the day, it’s two divisional points, and that’s why there’s a lot of stuff that goes on and the histories of the teams playing, and I think that’s probably read into a lot more than outside of the rooms on both sides. But both teams probably know how important it is, especially considering how both teams expected to be in different spots last year and how important these points are against division teams early in the year.”
There was more than Brown’s hit on Couture, who won’t play tonight because of a fractured right fibula suffered during a practice during the team’s most recent road trip. There were also fights between Kyle Clifford and Mike Brown and Andy Andreoff and Barclay Goodrow. Couture also drove hard into Jonathan Quick when the score was 5-1, which drew a firm and immediate response, and laid a hard hit on Milan Lucic as the King exited the penalty box. Lucic engaged Couture away from the play at the San Jose bench and received a match penalty, for those who may have been away from televisions or internet signals for the last two weeks.
“I don’t anticipate anything boiling over into tonight,” Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said. “No, I think every time we play each other, emotions are high, so tonight’s no different.”
So tonight’s game should be similar to the other hotly contested divisional games the teams have waged between each other and the Ducks in recent years, and that’s fine with Brown, who enjoys the special environment of the Sharks’ raucous home arena.
“I like playing here,” he said. “Just the atmosphere as a player, whether you’re hated or your team comes in like we talked about and all that other stuff, it’s always fun to play in those types of environments. It’s much more energetic in the building and they definitely thrive off their home crowd, but it’s always fun to play in front of fans like that because it just brings a little emotion to the game. The other good thing is they have really good boards and really good ice. That’s always a treat for us.”
Dustin Brown, on whether emotional moments generally carry over to following games:
It depends on the situation, really. Bur for the most part, again, a lot of attention gets drawn to whatever incidents have happened. At least as players our focus is on winning the game tonight and I’m sure that’s their mentality, as well.
Brown, on the importance of the opening 10 minutes of a game in San Jose:
Ever since I’ve been in the league, for the last 12 years or whatever it has been, they’ve always been a team that comes out of a cannon. For whatever reason, they have that really good start at home and their crowds are really loud and probably louder when we’re here, a little more hostile. But I think that’s just something they’ve kind of created here and it really helps them start well at home. They’re one of those teams where when they have the lead, they’re hard to play against.
Brown, on whether Milan Lucic’s presence takes focus away from him in San Jose:
It’s one of those things, guys like Looch and myself, if you’re liked by every team in the league you’re probably not in the league. Like I said, that’s one of the incidents where whatever happened last game, it’s really not relevant in the grand scheme of things. At the end of the day, we need points right now. … Looch is an intense guy and he’s also not going to be the type of guy that’s going to put his personal stuff … ahead of 20 guys in this room.
Milan Lucic, on whether emotional moments carry over, or whether there is a “fresh day”:
A little bit of both. It’s an opponent that you play a lot and an opponent that you have history against, so those things carry over. But every game, there is always something different that happens and new things that I guess add to the rivalries. We know they’re coming off a road trip that they were pretty successful on and for us, it’s our first road game. So it’s a chance for us to establish our road game here to start the season. Them coming back from the road, you know it’s always nice to get home after a long road trip. So I think those two things are going to make for a real good, heated game more than anything. As a player going into it, I think it’s something that fires you up and it makes it easier to get up for.
Lucic, on whether he’s feeling comfortable on a line with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli:
Yeah, for sure. I think the thing is now that we have to keep taking steps in the right direction and that confidence where we’re executing and finishing off our chances. Its’ great that we’re getting chances, but at the end of the day, you want to finish them off. Like I said, we need to keep creating them and keep going, moving in the right direction, as far as that goes.