It took one trip to Las Vegas early in the season for the San Jose Sharks to realize that the fast start to the season for the expansion Golden Knights was no fluke.So it should come as little surprise to the Sharks that they have to get past Vegas in the second round of the playoffs starting Thursday night to reach the Western Conference final for the fourth time in the past nine seasons.”I remember playing them in November and walking in and going Jacob Markstrom Jersey
, `This isn’t a mirage. These guys are for real,”’ Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. ”Their game was real, the way they came at you, the tenacity they played with, the depth they have. That opinion for me hasn’t changed in any of the games we played them, and it went back as far as November when we played them early. Great test for us.”The Golden Knights brought relentless speed to a Pacific Division that had been known in recent years for heavy teams that thrived on wearing down opponents with physical play.The group of castoffs raced past the rest of the division for 109 points in the regular season and then swept a Los Angeles Kings team that always seemed to be a step behind in the first round of the playoffs.”We played them a couple of times early and you figured out this team is for real and will be tough for years to come,” Sharks defenseman Justin Braun said. ”They have great speed and the coach has them going hard. We’re going to have to match that every shift.”The Sharks have embraced the league’s transition to a faster game in recent years, making it a priority following a loss in the Stanley Cup Final to Pittsburgh two years ago.The transformation really took hold this season after top-line center Joe Thornton went out with a knee injury in January and the Sharks acquired Evander Kane and Eric Fehr the following month, adding both speed and depth to the forward group that should test the unproven Golden Knights.”I would assume it’ll be a bit more fast-paced a bit, maybe a little more open hockey,” Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. ”I think LA was a team that played well defensively Markus Granlund Jersey
, but they don’t create as much offensively. With these guys we’re going to have to do a little more up and down.”Here are some other things to watch in this series:GOALIE SHOWDOWNThe series features a matchup of two of the NHL’s hottest goalies. Fleury allowed just three goals in a first-round sweep, leading the league with a .977 save percentage and 0.65 goals against average. San Jose’s Martin Jones was nearly as stingy, allowing four goals against Anaheim for a .970 save percentage and 1.0 GAA. Jones’ career .931 save percentage is third best ever among goalies with at least 20 playoff games.SPECIAL TEAMSOne of the few things Vegas didn’t do well in the first round was capitalize on power plays, scoring on just 1 of 12 chances after converting on 21.4 percent in the regular season. The Sharks were among the best penalty killers all season, ranking second at 84.8 percent. San Jose’s power play has been a bit of a roller coaster this season, struggling early and late but thriving for a stretch in the middle of the year. The Sharks were 6 for 20 in the opening round.”It does become more important as the playoffs go on that you win the special teams battle,” DeBoer said. ”Both teams take a lot of pride in those areas so it should be a good test.”BIG BURNSThe Sharks rely heavily on defenseman Brent Burns‘ big shot to generate offense. He had nine shots and a goal in Game 1 of the last round before the Ducks seemed to put extra emphasis on shutting him down. Vegas figures to do the same.”When he’s on the ice, you got to pay special attention to him,” coach Gerard Gallant said. ”The wingers can’t fall asleep up high and let him go down the backdoor and give him a lot of shots to the net. That’s what they do, they focus on getting pucks to the net.”LONG BREAKBoth teams figure to be well-rested for this series after sweeping the first round. San Jose will have seven full days since beating Anaheim, while Vegas has had eight days off since finishing off Los Angeles. This marks just the second time in the past 22 years that teams will meet in the playoffs after sweeping the previous round.JUMBO JOEThe Sharks will once again start the series without star center Thornton http://www.canucksshoponline.com/authentic-michael-del-zotto-jersey
, who has been out since Jan. 23 with a knee injury. DeBoer ruled Thornton out for at least Game 1 and there is no timeline for when he will be ready to return.—AP freelancer W.G. Ramirez in Las Vegas contributed to this report.— CALGARY, Alberta (AP) — Elias Lindholm is having a breakout season with Calgary.Lindholm scored twice, including the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period, and the Flames rallied from two down to beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 on Saturday night.After deflecting Noah Hanifin’s point shot into Mikko Koskinen’s pads, Lindholm knocked in the rebound at 9:10 of the third. He added an empty-netter for his team-leading 11th goal — his career high is 17 set in 2014-15.“He’s a high-end player. He has been his whole life,” Flames coach Bill Peters said. “Takes faceoffs, kills penalties, can play 4-on-4, plays on the power play. He touches the game in a lot of different areas.”Lindholm, acquired from Carolina in the offseason, was drafted fifth overall in 2013 Sam Gagner Jersey
, one spot ahead of linemate Sean Monahan.Monahan, with a goal and an assist, and Derek Ryan also scored for Calgary.Connor McDavid and Alex Chiasson scored for Edmonton, which has lost five of six.Down 2-1 entering the third period, Calgary tied it at 2:40 when Monahan rattled home a rebound of Travis Hamonic’s shot.It was the sixth time the Flames have come back to win when trailing after two periods, most in the NHL.“A lot of times we play unreal in the third, but you don’t want to chase the game too much,” Lindholm said. “It’s not going to work all the time to be down before the third. It’s something we need to work on.”The Flames were down 2-0 before Ryan ended a 14-game scoring drought with his second of the season at 16:23 of the second period.Until then, the Flames’ listless power play had given up just as many shots as it had generated, with two of the three allowed being breakaways.Standing tall in net was David Rittich, who improved to 6-1-0. Included in his 24 stops were three breakaways — two for Leon Draisaitl and one by Jujhar Khaira.“It’s my job. It’s a great feeling Sven Baertschi Jersey
, but that’s why I’m in the net — making saves,” Rittich said.With fellow goalie Mike Smith struggling, Rittich delivered the type of quality start Calgary needed after dropping three of its previous four games.“He was huge. There were a couple breakaways and odd-man rushes. He made some big stops. When that happens it makes you want to go hard,” Monahan said.Koskinen, who turned aside 33 shots, fell to 4-2-0.“It felt like we ran out of gas a little bit. We spent the whole third in our own zone,” he said.Edmonton increased its lead to 2-0 at 3:49 of the second when Draisaitl set up McDavid on a perfectly executed 2-on-1. Rittich had no chance to get across and stop the one-timer.The Oilers took the lead 2:29 into the game while short-handed. Playing against his former team, Chiasson broke in off the wing and slipped a backhand through Rittich’s pads.It was a physical game, especially early, with Mikael Backlund and McDavid wrestling at one point. Sam Bennett and Darnell Nurse squared off after Bennett, on the first shift of the game Alex Tuch Jersey Kids
, rocked the Oilers defenseman with a heavy hit.Matthew Tkachuk was in the middle of the action, getting jumped by Zack Kassian late in the first period, which drew a triple minor for roughing and a misconduct on the Oilers’ rugged forward.“We had an opportunity to go ahead two or three and that may have changed the game, on some of the breakaways, but their goaltender played well,” Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said.“Too many penalties. Their top players didn’t have to play a lot of hard minutes. They were on the power play the whole first two (periods), so by the time you get to the third, they have some gas left in their tanks and they certainly took it to us.”NOTES: Dillon Dube (concussion) returned to the lineup after missing four games. … Ryan Spooner made his debut for Edmonton after being acquired Friday in a trade with the New York Rangers for Ryan Strome. Spooner played left wing on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ty Rattie. … Right wing Patrick Russell made his NHL debut for the Oilers.UP NEXTOilers: Return home to play Vegas on Sunday night.Flames: Continue their homestand Monday night against Vegas.