There's two big injury situations that matter heading into game one of the 2011 NHL Playoffs quarterfinal matchups between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings. The good thing for both teams is the fact that the first game starts on Thursday as opposed to Wednesday, so each team will get more time to rehabilitate their guys. San Jose has been without Ryane Clowe for the past three games, and only had him for less than three minutes in a game against the Kings on April 4th, but he now appears to be ready to play and get things done for San Jose, having taken part in full practices and came out fine afterward.
It's a good thing that he's coming back, Clowe brings a lot to the ice on any given night. He can create scoring opportunities, and he can play good defense. His fellow teammates have expressed their excitement about possibly seeing him return on Thursday, talking about how Clowe is built for playoff-type hockey. Clowe is physical and hard-nosed, he won't give up any quarter that isn't fought for and earned, and over the course of four-to-seven games, he's the kind of player who wears on another team. Having Clowe back unquestionably makes San Jose a better team.
The Los Angeles Kings, though, will be without Anze Kopitar, who has been out since late March. Kopitar is their top guy, great on offense, and they are definitely hurt without him. Los Angeles remains a strong defensive team without him, which will change their gameplan significantly, but it could end up turning out better for LA than most were expecting. Justin Williams has been out with a dislocated shoulder recently, but he also has just went through a full practice and plans to again on Tuesday. His status is up in the air as it stands, but if he can go and feel good, he'll be a problem for the Sharks. A decision likely won't be made on Williams until Wednesday afternoon, or even just before the puck drops on Thursday.