Western Conference quarterfinals
Kings vs. San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion, 7 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Justin time – Justin Williams has the green light to return to the lineup after sitting out the final nine regular-season games because of a dislocated right shoulder. The Kings sorely need his offensive skill with Anze Kopitar out for the season following ankle surgery. To keep opponents from targeting certain parts of the body, clubs typically go out of their way to be vague regarding injuries but this one went public the day after it occurred. Look for the Sharks to test Williams’ shoulder the first chance they get.
2. Get on the horse – Kings coach Terry Murray singled out Alexei Ponikarovsky as a player he expects more from during the postseason. Ponikarovsky signed a one-year $3 million deal with the Kings in the offseason, toting a resume that included four 20-goal seasons in the last five. But this season, the 30-year-old left wing has been stuck on five goals since March 9 in Detroit. When he contributes, the Kings seem to play well, owning an 11-1-1 record in games in which Ponikarovsky records at least one point.
3. Time is now – The Dustin Penner addition hasn’t worked out so well for the Kings. He hasn’t recorded a point in the last 12 games and, to make matters worse, his effort has been inconsistent and unpredictable. All would be forgiven if he stepped up in the postseason. Part of what made him such an attractive addition was his experience helping the Ducks win the Stanley Cup title in 2007. He scored the game-winner in the first game of the opening series against the Wild. Penner seemed to click well with Williams before the injury, so look for Murray to align those two and hope for some magic.
4. Quick-n-ready – Just as he did last season, Murray plans to ride goalkeeper Jonathan Quick during the playoffs. The only difference is Quick had a lighter workload during the regular season this time around. Quick started 60 games this season compared to 72 a year ago. He hasn’t been as sharp as he was earlier in the season, however, giving up 11 goals in the last 3-plus games for a 1-3 finish. He concluded the regular season on a similar slide a year ago, allowing fewer than three goals only twice in his last nine starts. He then allowed 21 goals in six playoff games against Vancouver.
5. Clowe is a go – San Jose right wing Ryane Clowe missed the last three games because of an undisclosed lower-body injury but is expected back against the Kings. Clowe left in the first period of a 6-1 victory against the Kings on April 4. He’s just one more offensive weapon the Kings will have to account for. He’s fourth on the team with 24 goals and fifth with 62 points. Both represent career highs for the sixth-year player.