LAS VEGAS — The San Jose Sharks made it to the Stanley Cup Finals just two years ago Cody Kessler Jersey , losing in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So you’d think Peter DeBoer’s squad might be a little ticked off to be cast in the role of the underdog against the expansion Vegas Golden Knights when they meet in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs starting Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Instead, the Sharks seem to welcome the fact that the Golden Knights, who cruised to the Pacific Division title with 109 points, are solid betting favorites to move on to the Western Conference finals.
“I know we’re going to be heavy, heavy underdogs,” DeBoer said with a big smile after his team swept the Anaheim Ducks in four games in the first round. “Hopefully you write that, and we go from there.”
Vegas, which swept the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, won the season series with the Sharks (3-0-1), although two of the games were decided in overtime and another by just one goal.
“If you look at years past I think it’s nice for us to be an underdog,” San Jose defenseman Brenden Dillon told nhl.com. “They’ve been one of the best teams from Day 1 of the season, a team we have a lot of respect for and a team with a high-end offense. They’re feeling good about their game Chris Baker Jersey , and we’re going have to be at our best.”
Vegas is 31-10-2 at home but will be facing a veteran San Jose squad that is 22-14-7 on the road, outscoring Anaheim 6-2 in two wins at the Honda Center.
Both teams have playoff-proven goaltenders who come in hot. San Jose’s Martin Jones was 4-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average, a shutout and a glossy .970 save percentage in the sweep of the Ducks. Marc-Andre Fleury of the Golden Knights, a key member on three Stanley Cup-winning teams in Pittsburgh, was even more impressive against the Kings, compiling a 0.65 GAA and .977 save percentage to go with two shutouts.
A big key in Thursday night’s opener could be which team can shake off the rust quicker. Vegas will be playing its first game in nine days since polishing off the Kings 1-0 behind 31 saves by Fleury on April 17 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. San Jose will be taking the ice for the first time in eight days after edging visiting Anaheim 2-1 behind a 30-save performance by Jones on April 18 at SAP Center.
“I think the plus (of the long break) would probably be the rest, healing your body from the bumps and bruises a little bit,” Fleury said. “But it’s so long, though. We had great momentum going. Now we have to wait and see.”
“They’re in the same boat so that’s the good thing,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “I’m glad we’re not playing a team that just finished up a series and had two or three days off. We had an extra day more than them. … It’s going to be tough, but the players are going to be ready, they’re fired up. It’s a playoff game Jason Witten Jersey , not a regular-season game.”
WINNIPEG, Manitoba — It was 8,015 days between playoff wins in Winnipeg and the city’s rabid fan base is hoping they’ll only have to wait 48 hours for the next one.
The Jets defeated the Minnesota Wild 3-2 on Wednesday night, earning their first win in franchise history and a 1-0 series lead. The two teams will be back at it on Friday night at Bell MTS Place.
The last time Winnipeg hockey fans witnessed a home victory was a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at the old Winnipeg Arena on April 21, 1996. The Jets lost that first-round series 4-2 and then packed up for the Arizona desert, where they were reborn as the Phoenix Coyotes.
Wednesday’s tilt was a predictably physical affair, with 70 hits being thrown, nearly double the average of 39 from the teams’ regular-season games. The biggest, not surprisingly, was thrown by hulking Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who smoked Wild forward Joel Eriksson-Ek with a shoulder-on-shoulder hit in the first period, sending more than 15 Nate Hairston Jersey ,300 white-clad fans into a frenzy.
Some of them also wore white face paint while others were decked out with white hair extensions or wigs, but whatever their accessories, they successfully re-enacted the “White Out,” which first gained popularity back in the mid-1980s with the original franchise.
Jets captain Blake Wheeler said in a press scrum after practice on Thursday that it wasn’t surprising that bad blood would be spilled so early in the series. Wheeler, of course, fought his own teammate, defenseman Ben Chiarot, at practice a few weeks ago.
“That’s kind of the way it looks in the playoffs. The first period’s a bit helter-skelter and guys are laying the wood a little bit. The second period was more physical. Buff had a huge hit. They had some guys make some big hits. That’s the way it’s going to be,” Wheeler said.
The recipient of several of those hits, Winnipeg forward Mathieu Perreault left the game in the second period and will be a game-time decision Friday for coach Paul Maurice.
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, who guided the Anaheim Ducks to a four-game sweep of the Jets in 2015, said with Devan Dubnyk withstanding a barrage of rubber in net Denzelle Good Jersey , they had a chance to win when they took a brief 2-1 lead early in the third period.
“You can’t give 29 (Patrik Laine) a chance right down the slot to score on a turnover. You’re looking for disaster there,” Boudreau told a media scrum. “He deked our player, we didn’t hold the middle and he got to come right down Main Street. And when he does that, he’s shooting the puck. When he shoots the puck, every chance, it’s got a chance to go in.”
If Perreault is unable to answer the bell, it’s expected rookie Jack Roslovic will step into the lineup.
Winnipeg will also be without defensemen Toby Enstrom, Dmitry Kulikov and center Matt Hendricks.
The biggest name in the Wild’s sick bay is workhorse defenseman Ryan Suter, who is out indefinitely with a broken fibula.
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