Kings back in playoffs against battle-tested Canucks
KINGS (46-27-9) at CANUCKS (49-28-5)
Last 10 --
Los Angeles 5-4-1; Vancouver 4-3-3
Season series --
The Canucks took the season series, winning three of four. But the Kings won 8-3 in the final game between the teams on April 1.
Big story --
On one side, you have a Canucks team that has plenty of familiarity with the playoffs. With the Kings, it's not lacking, but they're not bursting with it, either. Ryan Smyth
and Sean O'Donnell have been there, done that. But for four of the five leading scorers on the Kings -- Anze Kopitar
, Drew Doughty
, Dustin Brown
and Alexander Frolov -- this is their first trip to the postseason. The Kings and Canucks didn't finish far apart in the standings, but experience could be the difference.
It was a tough finish in Los Angeles. Of their final 12 games, the Kings only won two of them in regulation. They won two others after regulation, but 4-on-4 overtimes and shootouts are a thing of the past in the postseason.
» Apr. 15, 2010: Coming Soon
Goaltender Jonathan Quick
has been a sore spot since the Olympic break, too. Los Angeles was just 1-3-4 in Quick's last eight starts, and the one game the Kings won featured Quick being pulled in favor of Erik Ersberg
, who got the relief win in a shootout.
But coach Terry Murray isn't ready to change starters. At least not yet.
"He looks, to me, like he's ready," he said of Quick. "Technically, he's fine. He's on top of the crease. He's doing the right thing, absorbing pucks. And with a few days off, I think it just gives him time to kick back a little bit and reflect a little bit and get back on track."
Most of the locker room agrees -- this is the best Canucks team they've played on. They're talented, deep, experienced. But all that regular season success goes out the window once the playoffs begin.
"This team's very good. Very good," defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. "It's funny. Every year I've been in the playoffs you think this is your best chance to win. Certainly last year I thought that after the season and here we are again this year."
The Canucks are also dealing with some goaltending issues of their own. Roberto Luongo has had his moments that make you shake your head since the Olympics, but he's not worried about the critics.
"I just worry about doing my job," Luongo said. "The only people who (I care about) are the guys in this locker room. I play for those guys and we play together as a team. At the end of the day we're the ones competing for the Cup, so that's all that matters to me."
Who's hot --
Henrik Sedin had a big finish to the regular season, one that earned him the Art Ross Trophy. He had 7 assists in his last 4 games.
Injury report --
The only injury concerns for either team are Canucks defensemen Shane O'Brien (upper-body) and Aaron Rome (lower-body). O'Brien practiced Wednesday, so he is likely to be available for Game 1. Rome will not play.
Stat pack --
Henrik Sedin was the leading scorer during the season series between the teams with 1 goal and 4 assists. Kings captain Dustin Brown
led his team with 3 goals and 1 assist. … Quick was winless against the Canucks this season, but his 2.28 goals-against average was impressive. Meanwhile, Luongo had a 3.33 GAA in three games against the Kings, who scored eight goals against Luongo on April 1.
Puck drop --
"We had a few really good teams. This is up there for sure. It all depends on what we do now. The next few months is going to determine that. I think we have a chance. We just need to take care of business." -- Daniel Sedin