SAN JOSE -- Now the Sharks get to test their mettle against the defending Stanley Cup champions
San Jose finally learned Sunday night that it will face the Los Angeles Kings in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs after the Detroit Red Wings ousted the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in their Game 7 showdown. Had Anaheim won, the Sharks would have faced the Chicago Blackhawks.
Though the Sharks now know their opponent, when the series will begin at Staples Center remained a mystery as the NHL did not announce a schedule.
While dodging the top-seeded Blackhawks and long flights to the Midwest between games, the Sharks will still find themselves facing a formidable challenge.
"We were the last team to beat them in the playoffs and that's been a long time," aid Logan Couture, referring to the Sharks six-game series win over the Kings in 2011. "They find a way to win games, to close out series. They've got that experience."
San Jose was 2-2 against the Kings in the regular season, one of the wins coming in a shootout. That 2011 series was the only other time the teams have met in the playoffs.
That, however, was before former Sharks coach Darryl Sutter took over behind the Los Angeles bench in December 2011. The fact that Sutter was hired there by someone else with San Jose connections, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, only adds to the rivalry between the teams.
Because the NHL reseeds teams after each round and the Detroit-Anaheim series went the full seven games, the Sharks had to wait five days after sweeping the Vancouver Canucks to find out their next opponent.
"They're getting antsy," coach Todd McLellan said Sunday after his team's third straight day of practicing.
The Kings advanced to the second round by eliminating the St. Louis Blues in a six-game series that was considered the most physical of the opening round. And the Sharks say they expect more of the same.
"They're going to play you hard," defenseman Brad Stuart said. "Every line's going to throw some physicality at you. They're not going to give you any ice for free -- you're going to have to work for it."
The Sharks are also going to need to figure out a way to beat Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick, who won the Conn Smythe Award for his Stanley Cup performance a year ago.
"Their goaltender is obviously a big part of their success last year," Stuart said. "We have to be prepared to make it hard on him as well, not give him good looks at the shots."
"Everybody knows my opinion of Patrick Marleau,'' said former teammate and current hockey analyst Jeremy Roenick, who has ripped Marleau in an autobiography and on TV. "But he has stepped up his game three or four notches. He's involved in every play, he's scoring big goals, and he's going into dangerous areas."
Added Roenick: "He's showing a lot of people, including myself, that he's the real deal.''
Staff writer Jon Wilner contributed to this report. For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.
For more about the Sharks' upcoming playoff series against the Kings, go online to www.mercurynews.com.