LOS ANGELES -- The Sharks are in position to sweep a first-round opponent for a second straight year and the incentive Thursday to eliminate the Los Angeles Kings goes beyond simply advancing to the Western Conference semifinals.
In a series as physical as this one, any extra rest is welcome.
"You have an opportunity to give yourself a few days extra to prepare and get the body feeling better," veteran defenseman Brad Stuart said. "If you can, you take advantage of it."
The Sharks-Kings series has been the most physical of the four in the Western Conference by far. The hit count on the nightly stat sheet can be a subjective and flawed statistic, but those numbers can reflect the general tone of a game.
None of the other three series had a combined total of more than 189 hits for their first three games. San Jose and Los Angeles combined for 312.
Sharks forward Mike Brown didn't question those numbers and pointed out that San Jose is playing a physical game up and down the lineup, not just on the fourth line where he competes.
"The biggest thing about playoffs is just wearing down their players," he said, "and I think the guys in here have noticed that finishing checks is breaking the Kings down and it's working."
The Sharks have built a 3-0 lead in two series over the past three seasons with different results. They did sweep the Vancouver Canucks a year ago; in 2011, the dropped the next three to the Detroit Red Wings before winning Game 7. A weary San Jose team advanced, but then lost to the Canucks in five games in the conference finals.
Todd McLellan said the coaching staff used both those examples to illustrate to the team the importance of closing out any series as soon as possible.
"But there's a team wearing black and silver tomorrow night that has a lot to say about that and they will play exceptionally hard," he said. "The message to our group is to expect that.
We'll have to play a better game tomorrow than we did yesterday."
The Kings were taking the approach that they just needed to focus on winning one game, not four, at this point.
"As a group," veteran Los Angeles forward Mike Richards said, "you just have to know that, one, it's not going to be easy and, two, it is possible."
"He's the type of guy that under pressure, he plays his best," Logan Couture said. "All of us in the room believe in Nemo. We've seen it first hand, when he was on the other team what he can do to you. He had some big games with Chicago against us in the playoffs, and last night he came up huge for us."
"He's fine," McLellan said when asked about the status of Braun, who said the problem came from a blocked shot and not a hard hit by Kings forward Jeff Carter.