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Golden Knights, Sharks open NHL playoffs Wednesday

Updated April 7, 2019 - 5:56 pm

It didn’t take long after the regular season ended in Los Angeles on Saturday night for the Golden Knights to flip the switch to playoff mode.

The Knights have been in a funk down the stretch, dropping seven of their final eight games with their postseason position essentially sealed as the No. 3 seed in the Pacific Division.

They have talked far more about rest, recovery and developing good habits than about wins and losses.

Minutes after stepping off the ice following a 5-2 loss to the Kings, forward Brandon Pirri said it was time to start focusing on results again.

“Right now,” he said. “We have to.”

If they needed a reminder that the postseason has arrived, it came in the form of an early morning Sunday wake-up call as the league announced the full schedule for the first round of the playoffs live on NHL Network at 7 a.m.

The Knights will open Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against the Sharks in San Jose in the first of a potential seven games between teams already very familiar with one another.

It gives both teams one less day to prepare than if the series started Thursday, but they are already well-schooled on each other.

The Knights have played San Jose 14 times, the most against any opponent in their brief history.

“They’re a tough team to play against,” Knights forward Reilly Smith said.

The Knights (43-32-7) have won nine of them, with three of San Jose’s (46-27-9) five wins coming in overtime.

That history includes a 4-2 series win in the second round of last season’s playoffs.

The last meeting was a 4-3 Sharks victory in overtime on March 30 at SAP Center, though there wasn’t nearly as much at stake for either team.

“Playoff mode definitely clicks in after the last regular-season game,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “We’re thinking a lot about them. We have a good rivalry with them. It’s going to be an intense series.”

The final regular-season meeting certainly backs that assertion. It included several fights, multiple skirmishes and a combined 42 penalty minutes.

It also featured some high-level hockey between two of the best teams in the Western Conference, who were both down a defensive star.

Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury missed that matchup with a lower-body injury and San Jose defenseman Erik Karlsson was out for most of the last two months before returning for the Sharks’ season-finale Saturday night.

Both are expected to play in the series, which continues with Game 2 in San Jose on Friday.

“I think it’s going to be lots of fun,” defenseman Nick Holden said. “Obviously, that last game we played up there was kind of a primer for what the series is going to be like. After that game and talking to guys, everyone is pretty excited.

“I mean, they’ve got good forwards, good (defensemen). I just think we have the same. It’s just going to be a fun series. We don’t expect it to be a quick series.”

The Knights first home game will be Sunday at 7 p.m., followed by a 7:30 p.m. game April 16.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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