As the Sharks look for that one win in Los Angeles that escaped them in Games 1 and 2, they go into Thursday's matchup knowing their defense has been stifling and the Kings are no longer standing pat.
Los Angeles showed new line combinations during practice Wednesday in preparation for a Game 5 that will give the winner a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal.
The Sharks hope they're first to win on the road in the series so they have a chance to advance with a Game 6 win Sunday in San Jose.
"We know, for us to accomplish our goal, we have to take something away from them in their building," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. "This crack is our first chance at it, and it might be our last, so we'll do what we can right off the bat."
Los Angeles isn't relying on its perfect postseason record at home (4-0) to get the job done. Instead, head coach Darryl Sutter made these changes to his forward lines in an effort to break through 5-on-5: Kyle Clifford joins top-liners Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams; physical Dustin Penner lines up with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on the No. 2 unit; and struggling captain Dustin Brown joins Trevor Lewis and Dwight King on the third line.
The Kings have scored only four even-strength goals. Kopitar has only a power-play assist. Brown has only a 5-on-3 goal. Richards has been the big threat with three goals, but two are on the power play.
Meanwhile, no Sharks defense tandem has been on the ice for more than one even-strength goal against. The pairs of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, Dan Boyle and Matt Irwin, and Scott Hannan and Brad Stuart have divvied minutes fairly evenly and played consistently as a group of six, supported by the forward lines and backstopped superbly by goalie Antti Niemi.
"There are five or six guys who the cameras gravitate to and usually that tends to be the guys scoring," Boyle said. "The goalie obviously gets the spotlight as well. D-men tend to get overlooked, but they have played pretty well for 1 1/2 series."
McLellan went as far as to single out the Vlasic-Braun pairing, which was instrumental in shutting down Vancouver's top-line twins, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, during San Jose's four-game sweep of the Canucks in Round 1. Vlasic and Braun are doing similar work against Los Angeles, whether it's the Kopitar or Richards line.