The Los Angeles Kings hope to have turned things around with their 4-3 win against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday after ending their streaks of five straight losses and six losses in their last seven games, and they’ll look to try and stay in the win column, as well as keep their offense rolling after four goals against the Preds, when they host the Vancouver Canucks tonight.
It will be a rematch of the first round of the 2009-2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks eliminated the sixth-seeded Los Angeles Kings in six games. After blowing a pair of third period leads in that series, as well as losing Game One in overtime, the Kings feel like they let that series slip away, and although that series was about a year and a half ago and they beat the Canucks twice last season, you can’t help but think that it would feel pretty good for the Kings if they could get a little bit more revenge tonight against a team that knocked them out of the playoffs, something they were unable to do Monday against the San Jose Sharks, the team that eliminated the Kings last year. Although really, revenge won’t truly have been exacted until the Kings eliminate the Canucks and Sharks in the playoffs. Although revenge may be in the back of the minds for many of the players, it shouldn’t be at the front, as the Kings are coming off a win on Tuesday that followed a 1-4-2 drought, and the Kings now look to prove that their slump is behind them and put together consecutive wins for the first time since they won four straight games from October 15th to October 22nd.
However, the Kings are in for a tough test against the Canucks, the defending Western Conference champions. Although the way they’ve been playing so far this year, you’d think they were the defending Stanley Cup champions, because they do look like they’re suffering from a Stanley Cup hangover. The Canucks are a mediocre 7-7-1 on the year so far, not what you’d expect from the team that had the best record in the NHL last year (54-19-9). The Canucks are notorious slow starters though, they usually tend to struggle through October, and this year was no different. Fortunately for them, the calender now says November. Although in four games this month, the Canucks haven’t exactly turned heads with a 2-2-0 record, but that’s a very small sample size, and they’re coming off a 6-2 win in Chicago, and that game was back on Sunday, so the Canucks will be very well-rested for tonight. On the other hand, the Kings will hope that the time off will have killed some of the momentum that they had from that game and that they may be a little bit rusty.
Despite the fact that this team went to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Canucks have many doubting them as to whether this team is built to get it done in the playoffs or not. Debate that as much as you want, but this is the regular season, and these are the defending President’s Trophy champions, and the majority of their core from last year is back, so assuming that the Canucks have put their defeat from last June in the rear-view mirror and moved on — which is a bit of a question mark with a Canucks team that has shown to be somewhat mentally fragile in the past — then this is a very explosive, dangerous team in all areas of the game, and they’re going to provide a heck of a challenge for the Kings tonight.
Up front for Vancouver, it’s pretty impressive. They have the last two Art Ross Trophy winners in Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Chris Higgins and Alex Burrows have had solid years for the Canucks so far, although Burrows is not expected to play tonight due to injury. They also have the defending Selke Trophy winner, who also scored 41 goals last year, in Ryan Kesler, as well as former 30-goal scorer David Booth who was acquired from the Florida Panthers a couple of weeks ago. They also have prized young rookie Cody Hodgson, Manny Malhotra, Maxim Lapierre, Jannik Hansen, Daile Weiss, Aaron Volpatti, and Andrew Ebbett. Mason Raymond, Byron Bitz, and Steve Pinizzotto are on the injured reverve.
On defense for the Canucks, they did lose their top defenseman from last year in Christian Ehrhoff this summer (and didn’t replace him) because the two sides could not agree on a new contract for the pending unrestricted free agent, but they were able to retain Kevin Bieksa. However, stealing the show so far this year on the blue line for the Canucks has been Alexander Edler, who has 15 points in 15 games. Behind them, Sami Salo has been good so far this year, but injuries are always a problem with him and he’s missed the last three games and may once again be unable to play tonight, while the Canucks will look for bounce back years from Dan Hamhuis and especially Keith Ballard. Aaron Rome, Alexander Sulzer, and Andrew Alberts are other options on defense for the Canucks, and at least one of them will play tonight, two if Salo is unable to go.
In goal, it could be Roberto Luongo, who is also off to his traditional slow start, or it could be Cory Schneider who has been solid for the Canucks.
Meanwhile, despite coming off a win, the Kings are making a couple of lineup changes tonight. With Scott Parse landing on the injured reserve, Colin Fraser was activated off of it, and will make his Kings debut tonight. Also, Trent Hunter checks back into the lineup for Brad Richardson. The top two lines stay intact, and overall, the lines tonight for the Kings will be Anze Kopitar between Simon Gagne and Justin Williams, Mike Richards between Dustin Penner and Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll between Kyle Clifford and Trent Hunter, and Colin Fraser between Ethan Moreau and Trevor Lewis. On defense, no changes, as it will be Willie Mitchell with Drew Doughty, Rob Scuderi with Jack Johnson, and Alec Martinez with Matt Greene. Kevin Westgarth, Brad Richardson, and Davis Drewiske are the healthy scratches. After sitting out the Kings’ win on Tuesday, Jonathan Quick is back in goal tonight, as he looks to end a personal five-game losing streak and pick up his first win since a 5-3 win in Dallas on October 27th.
A key for the Kings today will be discipline, as the Canucks scored five power play goals on Sunday in Chicago and have the second-best power play in the NHL with a 26.4% success rate. The Kings won’t want to put that dangerous power play out on the ice very often. On the flip side, despite the Canucks having a 88.9% success rate killing penalties, the fifth-best in the NHL, they are surrendering 2.87 goals per game, which ties them with Chicago for 20th in the NHL, so maybe this is a good chance for the Kings to keep the goals coming tonight, especially with regard to 5-on-5 scoring. Will the Kings be able to prove that their slump is behind them and keep the Canucks’ slow start going, or will Vancouver pick up where they left off in Chicago?