NHL Picks: Kings at Sharks Odds and Betting Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 4/6/2012
The NHL’s regular season concludes on Saturday, and in one respect it’s lacking drama. That’s because we know all 16 teams that will be headed to the postseason – in recent years a final playoff spot or two has come down to the final day.
But that’s not to say there’s no drama on Saturday. The Southeast Division title is up for grabs: the Florida Panthers lead the Washington Capitals by two points. The Cats are in the playoffs for the first time in a dozen years, but they will also win their first division title in franchise history if they gain at least a point at home against Carolina or if the Capitals lose to the New York Rangers.
But the real fun is in the Pacific Division, where San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix all have shots to win the title entering Friday’s action. The Sharks and Kings are tied atop the Pacific with 94 points and Phoenix has 93. The Coyotes are at St. Louis in Friday night’s lone NHL game and then at Minnesota on Saturday. The Kings and Sharks complete a home-and-home on Saturday night in San Jose – it’s literally the final game of the regular season with a 10:30 p.m. EST start.
A Sharks victory against Los Angeles would give San Jose the Pacific Division title if the Coyotes are unable to pick up three points in their final two games. Not too shabby considering that about a week ago the Sharks were on the outside looking in for the playoffs altogether (although the team will finish with its lowest point total since 2002-03). Obviously, the Kings and Sharks will determine on the ice Saturday which team finishes ahead of the other. L.A. would hold the tiebreaker edge over Phoenix if those two end up tied. The Kings have one division title in franchise history, coming 21 years ago.
Why is the division title so important? It guarantees the No. 3 spot in the West and thus home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The two teams that don’t win the division will drop to No. 7 and No. 8 in the West and have to open at either Vancouver or St. Louis.
Kings at Sharks Betting Story Lines
These two teams played a wildly entertaining game on Thursday night, won 6-5 by San Jose in a shootout. The Kings, who were -118 favorites, had a 3-1 lead near the end of the second period before Joe Thornton found the net to make it 3-2 at 19:32 and give the Sharks momentum heading into the third. Joe Pavelski scored the only goal in the shootout.
There were a whopping seven power-play goals in the game. It was San Jose’s third straight win. The Sharks rank second in the NHL with the man-advantage with a 21.0 percent efficiency rate; L.A. is fourth in the penalty kill. Only two teams -- New Jersey and Minnesota – have won more games in the penalty-shot tiebreaker than San Jose's nine.
But the oddest thing to happen Thursday involved Sharks forward Ryane Clowe. He was on the bench with about two minutes remaining in a tie game when he stuck out his stick and nicked the puck away from Kings forward Jarret Stoll, disrupting a potential 3-on-2. Pretty much everyone in Staples Center saw it but the officials, so play continued.
If Clowe had been whistled on the play, he would have a received two minutes in the penalty box under the "Interference" section of the NHL rulebook. Because that would have just been a minor penalty, the Sharks don’t think Clowe will be suspended for that but it’s not impossible. He has 17 goals and 28 assists on the season; Clowe had a goal, an assist and two fights in Thursday’s game.
The Kings again played without star forward Jeff Carter, who has missed four games with a deep bone bruise in his ankle. Carter, acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade-deadline deal in late February, has six goals and three assists in 16 games with the Kings. The team is 11-5-0 with him in the lineup, 2-0-2 without. He won’t play in this one but expects to return for the playoffs.
San Jose leads the season series 3-2 -- Thursday’s game was the first time a road team had won between these two this season. The Sharks are 25-12-3 at home this season and have won four in a row and six of their last seven at HP Pavilion. The Kings are 18-13-9 on the road.
Kings at Sharks Betting Odds and Key Trends
San Jose opened as a -145 favorite with the total at five on NHL odds. The Kings are 36-45 ATS this season and 23-42-16 on the ‘over/under’. The Sharks are 28-53 and 37-42-2, respectively.
Los Angeles is 5-0 in its past five in the second game of a home-and-home series. The Kings are 5-1 in their past six games after allowing at least five goals in the previous game. San Jose is 5-1 in its past six in the second of a home-and-home series. The Sharks are 1-5 in their past six games after scoring five goals or more in their previous game. The Kings are just 10-22 in their past 32 trips to San Jose.
Kings at Sharks Betting Prediction
For what it’s worth, the Coyotes game on Saturday night should be ending about the time these teams take the ice, so they will know what’s up. Obviously that could affect one team’s motivation. But I look for this game to be the exact opposite of Thursday’s and to be a low-scoring, playoff-type atmosphere. I think the Kings have the better goaltending, but I can’t pick them without Carter. So take San Jose and the under.
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