One of the most interesting traditions the NHL has developed over the years to get fans excited and expand its markets is the annual Stadium Series, featuring top teams playing in the confines of an outdoor baseball or football park.
The most interesting game of this year’s Stadium Series will be the battle between the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks in front of a sold-out crowd (h/t David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News) at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Here is all the vital viewing information on the Kings vs. Sharks battle in the 2015 NHL Stadium Series.
Where: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
When: Saturday, Feb. 21
Start Time: 10 p.m. ET
Watch: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
Breaking Down Los Angeles vs. San Jose
The battle between the Kings and the Sharks is a great Western Conference matchup that will take place in front of the packed Levi’s Stadium. The atmosphere for this game will be unparalleled.
Outdoor hockey games are already one of the most unique experiences in sports. For those who love the sport, playing under the lights of an arena reminds the athletes and fans of the pond and street hockey experiences that helped spawn the love of the game.
San Jose head coach Todd McLellan talked about his personal experiences playing on outdoor surfaces as a kid, via Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:
We went to school with our backpacks and our hockey sticks. Every school had an outdoor rink and lights, so we’d play every minute at recess, we’d play after school, we’d go home and eat, then come back and they’d turn on the lights and we’d play. It was always like the best-of-43, so it never ended. Saturday afternoons, the mums would have hockey sticks and be on a team. It was a different world.
As if the stakes of playing in the Stadium Series weren’t high enough, San Jose and Los Angles are locked in a war for positioning in the Pacific Division. The Sharks are currently fifth (29-22-8), and the Kings are currently fourth (27-18-12).
On one hand, San Jose has struggled defensively this season. The team is ranked 23rd overall in goals-against average (2.8) and 20th on the penalty kill (80.4 percent). While goaltender Antti Niemi has not had as much help on defense as years past, he has struggled this season overall, amassing a 2.63 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
For Los Angeles, the defensive unit and goaltending have been strong, but the inconsistency of the offense has been a major issue at times. With just two players with over 40 points coming into the matchup against San Jose (Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar), it’s been tough for the Kings to find any rhythm in the offensive zone.
Fortunately for fans of Los Angeles, the team has been playing well in February, winning five of the first seven games. On the other side of the coin, the Sharks lost seven of the first nine games this month, struggling to score goals.
On Saturday in front of the raucous crowd, all bets are off.
The atmosphere in the stadium will be unique, and every player on the ice will be looking to shine under the bright lights of the national media. Los Angeles will pull out the win.
Predicted Final Score: Los Angeles 4, San Jose 2
*Stats via NHL.com.