A look at the Sharks' first-round Western Conference playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings:
HOME, VERY SWEET HOME
It's not a coincidence that the home team has won 22 of the past 24 games in this rivalry, including all seven in last year's Western Conference semifinals. There's a reason: Matchups matter. Having home-ice advantage gives Sharks coach Todd McLellan the last change, which could mean having the Logan Couture line and defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Jason Demers against the Anze Kopitar line. Joe Thornton's line and Justin Braun and Brad Stuart will likely defend Jeff Carter's line. The Kings had the same record on the road (23-14-4) as they did at home, but only one team, Boston, had more wins at home (31) this season than the Sharks (29). If the series goes to a Game 7, the Sharks like the fact they will drive to it, not fly. Edge: Sharks.
THE HIT PARADE
Everybody knows the big ones -- Raffi Torres' hit on Kings forward Jarret Stoll in Game 1 a year ago, Los Angeles captain Dustin Brown's knee-on-knee hit that cost rookie Tomas Hertl 45 games this season and a trip to the Olympics representing the Czech Republic. But a look at the stat sheet shows the Kings were also the NHL's most physical team as defined by a league-leading 2,609 hits. Yes, it's a subjective stat, but that's 977 more than the Sharks -- 25th in the NHL -- were credited with. Brown leads Los Angeles with 246 hits, while Tommy Wingels leads the Sharks with 218. That's not much of a gap over 82 games, but the margin widens right after that. Robyn Regehr is second on the Kings with 211 hits, and Brent Burns is second on the Sharks with 145. On the other hand, no team seems to get the Sharks into a hitting mood like Los Angeles, as San Jose's franchise-record 52 hits in a 2-1 win on April 3 will attest. Edge: Kings.
ONE MAN UP
Both teams probably wanted the option of declining a penalty at some point, as neither had a particularly effective power play. The Sharks finished 20th in the NHL with a 17.2 percent success rate, and the Kings were 27th at 15.1 percent. With higher-than-average power play opportunities -- San Jose had 291, tied for second in the NHL, while Los Angeles was fifth with 284 -- it only draws attention to the squandered chances. Joe Pavelski with 16 and Patrick Marleau with 11 accounted for more than half of Sam Jose's 50 power-play goals. Kopitar led the Kings with 10 of Los Angeles's 43 power-play goals. Edge: Sharks.
ONE MAN DOWN
The Sharks and Kings did a better job of preventing power-play goals than scoring them. San Jose was short-handed fewer times than any team in the NHL at 219, then killed off 84.9 percent of those, a better rate than 24 other teams. Five spots below the Sharks sat Los Angeles, with an 83.1 percent success rate for the 296 times they were short-handed -- third most in the NHL and more than one might expect for a team that finished in the middle of the pack averaging 10.7 penalty minutes per game. One distinction between the teams: the Sharks were more disciplined on the road (97 times short-handed) than at home (122 times); the reverse was true for Los Angeles as the Kings put themselves a man down more often on the road (156 times) than at home (140 times). Edge: Sharks.
INSIDE THE CIRCLE
Both teams love to have the puck on their sticks, and both teams are among the top three in the NHL when it comes to that initial battle for the puck. Each won 52.8 percent of their draws all season, tying for second-best in the NHL behind only the Nashville Predators. Cheating, of course, is a big part of winning faceoffs in the NHL, so the linesmen might need to be more diligent than usual. Matchups? If Couture is going head-to-head with Kopitar, the King has a 53.6 percent to 50.2 percent edge. Thornton and Carter? The Shark comes out ahead 56.1 percent to 52.2 percent. The third line? Stoll is a team-best 54.7 percent for Los Angeles; if the Sharks go with Pavelski, he has the edge with 56.0 percent; if it's James Sheppard, that figure drops to 45.1 percent and the Kings have the advantage. If the fourth line ends up being Andrew Desjardins vs. Mike Richards of the Kings, Desjardins has a 55 percent to 53.9 percent advantage. Edge: Even.
-- DAVID POLLAK AND CURTIS PASHELKA