Programming note: Coverage of the Sharks' season opener in Los Angeles against the Kings starts tonight at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network
LOS ANGELES –- It’s not possible to be fully and completely prepared for your first regular season game in the National Hockey League.
But for Sharks Chris Tierney, 20, and Mirco Mueller, 19, set to play their first career games on Wednesday night at Staples Center against the Kings, they may not be completely overwhelmed by their surroundings.
Both skated when the teams iced mostly NHL lineups in the Sharks’ preseason game against the Kings last Tuesday, a 4-1 Los Angeles victory in what was probably San Jose’s worst showing in their seven-game slate.
Tierney got a taste of what it’s like competing against top NHL centers, including Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards.
“It was nice to be able to go against those guys and gain confidence against them, that I can play against them,” Tierney said on Wednesday morning. “I think I’ll be ready.”
Tierney played in six preseason games in all, posting one assist and a +2 rating. In the final three games against NHL rosters, he centered what is now considered the Sharks’ third line, with Tommy Wingels and Barclay Goodrow –- the latter of which will be replaced by Tye McGinn against the Kings, thanks to an unfortunately-timed hand injury.
The Kings are, plain and simple, the NHL’s best team down the middle with centers Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Richards and Jarret Stoll.
“I think it’s real important early on, especially for me to play against high-caliber centermen,” Tierney said. “There was a little taste of it in the preseason going against some of the big boys on some of the LA's and Anaheim’s. It was a good test, but I know it’s going to be ramped up here during the season. I think I’m ready for it.”
As for Mueller, the defenseman averaged more than 21 minutes a night over the final three preseason games. He’ll be paired with Brent Burns.
What did he learn about the Kings last Tuesday?
“They’re a really tight team,” Mueller said. “They play very disciplined. They’re not too flashy, I think they play a really good team game. They’re really hard to play against. We’ve got to be smart too, and play hard.”