SAN JOSE – It was all but over. The Los Angeles Kings held a 3-0 second period lead at home on Saturday over Winnipeg, and with a win would have locked up the Pacific Division title. That would have ensured a Sharks-Ducks first round matchup.
The Jets stormed back to claim a 4-3 shootout victory, though, so the Sharks won’t know whether they’ll play their first playoff game at Honda Center or Staples Center until Sunday night. If Anaheim wins in Washington in a game that’s being made up due to weather, the Sharks play the Kings. If Washington wins, either in regulation or otherwise, it’s San Jose-Anaheim.
“We’ll keep an eye on it,” Joe Pavelski said of Sunday’s game. “Obviously we’ll get a little bit of rest. It’s one of those situations, they are both really good teams. You don’t even care to pick. Give us one and let’s go to work. It’s going to be a great series whoever we play. We’re just waiting.”
The Sharks went 1-3 against the Ducks in the regular season, although three of the meetings came within the first two months of the season. San Jose was 3-1-1 against the Kings.
Joel Ward is new to the intensity of California hockey this season.
“They’re fun,” he said. “You kind of get a taste of the rivalry, for sure, playing against them quite a few times. Big, physical teams with a lot of skill up front. It’s just that time of year, you embrace it, go all in and give as much as you can.”
Coach Pete DeBoer has remarked a few times lately that he and his staff have been preparing for both the Kings and Ducks, when it became evident a couple weeks ago that San Jose would probably not win the division.
On Sunday, he’ll just wait until that final game is over before burying his head back in the books, so to speak.
"It gives me most of the day off tomorrow,” he said with a smirk. “I was planning on working all day, but we'll have to sit and wait. We'll know [Sunday] night. Guys have the day off. We'll show up Monday morning and go to work and get ready for whenever we start."
If the Sharks visit Los Angeles, the start date is almost certainly on Thursday, as the Lakers have a home game on Wednesday night. If it’s Anaheim, the scuttlebutt is that the series may not start until Friday, as the league will likely want to alternate the California home dates.
DeBoer said: "Pick your poison. There's no way around that. We've known that for a while. I think our guys are excited about the challenge."