A trip to Southern California used to be one of the most difficult in the NHL.
The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks usually provided difficult competition -- the teams have combined for three Stanley Cups in the past 12 years -- and visiting teams often got distracted by the sun and surf.
Vegas, which reached the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season, now seems to provide opposing coaches with more concerns (they call it Sin City, after all).
Plus, the Kings and Ducks occupy the bottom two spots in the Western Conference this season.
That isn't making things any easier for the San Jose Sharks, who will play at Anaheim on Friday night after suffering a 4-2 defeat against the host Kings on Thursday.
The loss was the fourth in a row for the Sharks, who have already clinched a Western Conference playoff berth. But they're now five points behind Calgary in the race for the Pacific Division title and the conference's No. 1 seed in the postseason. A second-place finish in the division likely would leave the Sharks in a first-round matchup against the aforementioned Golden Knights.
The Sharks played Thursday without forward Logan Couture, who was suffering from flu-like symptoms.
That added to the list of those sitting out, which includes forward Joe Pavelski and defenseman Erik Karlsson. Both skated Wednesday and accompanied the team on the SoCal trip, but neither played Thursday and are questionable to play Friday.
Pavelski, the Sharks' captain, has missed the past two games, matching the total number he's missed over the past eight seasons, because of a lower-body injury. Karlsson has been out with a groin injury.
"Feeling a little better. I feel like if I had to go, I could find a way," Pavelski told the San Jose Mercury News. "Be a little cautious and go from there."
Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said he wants to make sure Pavelski is healthy for the playoffs.
"He's going to be fine. But again, you don't want to rush things unless you have to," DeBoer said. "We're going to do what's right and make sure he's back full time."
The Ducks, barring a miracle, will miss the playoffs for the first time in the past seven seasons. They had won three of four before a 3-0 home loss to Winnipeg on Wednesday night.
"We definitely had our chances," Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg, who failed to register a point for only the second time in the past 10 games, told NHL.com. "We should've scored at least one or two and the game would've been different. At the end of the night, we took too many penalties. It's tough killing a lot of penalties. Tough to get a rhythm going with all four lines when you're doing that."
The Ducks gave the Jets five power-play opportunities, with the winning goal coming with the man advantage.
"I thought we came out and played pretty well. I thought we commanded 5-on-5," Ducks defenseman Josh Manson told NHL.com. "We got into a little bit of penalty trouble, and they scored one late in the first period. Other than that, I didn't think our game was that bad."
--Field Level Media
Sharks seek end of skid as they visit Ducks