NHL

Sharks-Kings Preview

San Jose Sharks goalie Alex Stalock (32) blocks a goal attempt by Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll (28) during the second period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, April 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avela Photo:

San Jose Sharks goalie Alex Stalock (32) blocks a goal attempt by Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll (28) during the second period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, April 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avela

The Los Angeles Kings rallied from three games down in the first round of the 2014 playoffs to beat the San Jose Sharks en route to their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.

A year later, both teams will miss the playoffs.

Looking to avoid a fourth straight defeat, the Kings host the Sharks to conclude a pair of underachieving seasons Saturday.

For the first time since Carolina in 2006-07, the reigning Stanley Cup champion won't be part of the postseason. Los Angeles' fate was sealed with a 3-1 loss at Calgary on Thursday.

''It's a big disappointment for our group that expects to be in the playoffs," Kings captain Dustin Brown said.

The Kings (39-27-15) didn't help matters by totaling six goals and one point in their final five road contests. Two nights after falling 4-2 at lowly Edmonton, Los Angeles fell behind 2-0 on Thursday before Jordan Nolan scored early in the third.

''We just didn't play good enough hockey this year," forward Anze Kopitar said.

The Kings remain one of the league's top defensive teams allowing 2.42 goals per game, but weren't as dominant after yielding an NHL-best 2.05 last season. They were slightly better offensively, averaging 2.64 goals compared to 2.41 in 2013-14.

However, the emergence of Calgary, Winnipeg and Nashville as playoff contenders in the Western Conference left the Kings with little room for error. Los Angeles went a combined 2-4-5 against those three clubs headed to the postseason after missing out a year ago.

"Too much inconsistency," Kopitar said. "It's too tough coming down the stretch this time of year to be playing catch-up."

While the Kings can salvage some pride with a third straight home victory, they'll have an eye on next season.

"We know what we've got to do, and I think that's a good thing to have," said Kopitar, who has a goal and three assists against the Sharks this season. "Obviously this one is really tough to swallow, I did not picture this season to go the way that it did.

"We've got to come back next year stronger, that's what it is. We've got to learn from this."

As the Kings prepare to miss the postseason for the first time in six seasons, San Jose's string of 10 straight playoff appearances - the second-longest active streak behind Detroit's 24 - also will end.

The Sharks (40-32-9) face an uncertain future with coach Todd McLellan and general manager Doug Wilson's job status possibly in doubt. Since becoming the fourth NHL team to lose a best-of-seven series after winning the first three games last season, the Sharks never seemed to recover.

Their 19 home wins were their fewest for a full season since winning 17 in 2002-03, and their average of 2.74 goals allowed are the most since yielding 2.87 in 2005-06.

However, 29-year-old Bryan Lerg's first goal in his NHL debut during Thursday's 3-1 win at Edmonton provided a memorable bright spot amid a dismal season.

''It's been a tough year, but things like that make it fun,'' forward Logan Couture said after recording his career-high 40th assist on the goal by Lerg, who played in 353 minor league games.

The Kings and Sharks split the first four meetings with each winning home and away.

Promoted Stories
Comments

More NHL