RedEye

Kings-San Jose series has controversy built in

Controversy usually unfolds AFTER a playoff series starts. But it's already there, riding shotgun with the Kings and Sharks, who will be meeting for the third time in the postseason in the last four years. This all has to do with the knee-on-knee collision between Kings captain Dustin Brown and the Sharks' dynamic rookie Tomas Hertl on Dec. 19. Hertl, who required knee surgery, returned to action last week. Sharks fans haven't forgotten. Nor has Hertl, who told Bay Area reporters: "Playoff time, it's more important, because it's L.A. I not much like L.A. this season."

Kings offense vs. Sharks defense

The Sharks have a mobile, but not overly physical, defense corps, so that will be an area the Kings will probably try to exploit with their big-bodied presence down low.

Kings defense vs. Sharks offense

The X factor is Joe Pavelski, who had a career-high 41 goals this season, playing mostly with Joe Thornton in the second half. But the return of Hertl could allow the Sharks to put Pavelski as their third-line center, which would create even more balance in their attack.

Goalies

Los Angeles deftly managed the long injury-related absence of starter Jonathan Quick, who was out from mid-November until early January. The Kings hold the edge here with the Sharks' No. 1 goalie, Antti Niemi, faltering down the stretch, going 3-3 in his final six starts, including being pulled in the regular season's biggest game, at Anaheim on April 9.

Special teams

The power plays are near the bottom of the league: San Jose, 20th, and the Kings, 26th. Meanwhile, penalty-killing for both teams is in the top 10: San Jose, seventh, and the Kings, 10th.

Home ice

San Jose holds the best home record in the Western Conference, and the Kings were eighth. Last season, the road was a constant struggle for the Kings, but they reversed that trend this season, recording 23 wins. The Sharks won 22 road games this season. Unlike last season's second-round matchup against the Kings, the Sharks hold home-ice advantage in this series.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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