LOS ANGELES — The memory lingers and so does the sour taste. And there’s more than enough bad blood to go around get both clubs going.
Punted to the playoff sidelines in just five games by the Los Angeles Kings last spring, there shouldn’t be a lack of motivation tonight for the Vancouver Canucks to end a three-game road trip on a positive note.
“We are looking forward to it,” said Canucks winger Alex Burrows. “I looked at it right from the get-go on the calendar and that’s the team that kicked us out of the playoffs and we have to make sure we respond as group. If we’re disciplined and have better special teams, we should be alright. We’ve got to make sure we’re ready.”
The defending Presidents’ Trophy winners are 2-2-1 and have been bi-polar in California with a convincing 5-0 victory in Anaheim on Friday and a concerning 4-1 loss in San Jose on Sunday, so the Staples Center is the perfect venue. It’s not that far from Hollywood and there’s already been enough drama between the two teams.
The Canucks scored three power-play goals against the Ducks and went 0-for-7 against the Sharks. They gift-wrapped two early goals on turnovers by Jason Garrison and Alex Edler and won just 32 per cent of faceoffs.
“We’ve got to clean up what we did, put it behind us and learn from mistakes,” said Garrison who was paired with Kevin Bieksa and Edler with Dan Hamhuis after the defensive blunders.
The Sunday loss could also mean Manny Malhotra, who ranks second at a whopping 70.6 per cent efficiency, will draw back in on the fourth line tonight and Andrew Ebbett will likely sit. None of this has been confirmed because the Canucks held an optional game-day skate and coach Alain Vigneault didn’t speak of his lineup. But he does rotate his goalies in back-to-back games.
And, of course, starting Roberto Luongo will draw attention again until a trade is eventually completed to end the exhausting process.
“They’ve got a good team, the same as San Jose, and play a grinding game and we’ve got to be better,” said Canucks captain Henrik Sedin.
The Kings raised their championship banner and then dropped their season opener. Jonathan Quick came off offseason back surgery and allowed three goals on the first eight shots en route to a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Stanley Cup champions are 1-2-1, are missing two injured defencemen in Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene and have only scored eight goals in four games. And they haven’t scored a power-play goal yet in 23 opportunities. Anze Kopitar has a pair of goals in three games after returning from knee surgery, penalty king Kyle Clifford leads the club with five points and coach Darryl Sutter has returned to his old ways of yanking his lineup leash.
Dustin Penner was a healthy scratch last week and is always an easy target. He sits out again tonight, his third-straight exodus. And Sutter said he’s still waiting for Mitchell to clear himself and get back to playing. As for Penner, it was almost predictable with no goals in two games, just three shots and a minus-2 rating.
“It’s one of those things that the guillotine has to fall somewhere when the team under-produces and more times than not, it’s fallen on me,” the hulking winger told the Los Angeles Times.
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