Canucks’ Game Day: Doughty, all the Kings’ men look to reign at Rogers


Kings defenceman Drew Doughty can be hard on opposing forwards.

Kings defenceman Drew Doughty can be hard on opposing forwards.

Photograph by: Harry How, The Province

The Los Angeles Kings, 3-2 overtime losers Thursday to the surprising Vegas Golden Knights, sport the third-best record in the NHL’s Western Conference. They’ll be in Vancouver tonight looking to spoil the Canucks’ plans to end 2017 on a winning note (7 p.m., Rogers Arena, CBC, SNET 650 AM):

Brock Boeser vs. Drew Doughty

Boeser is having a remarkable rookie season and Doughty is having a bounce-back campaign. As a Calder Memorial Trophy contender, Boeser is adept at finding space and scoring. As a Norris Trophy contender with 28 points (6-22) to rank second among all defenders, Doughty is good at both end of the ice. Something has to give here.

1. Remember Staples Center shuffle: The Canucks have the eighth-ranked power play and the Kings own the league’s best penalty kill. On Nov. 14, the Canucks stumbled into the Staples Center on a 2-for-21 power-play slide. They were operating at 14.1 per cent efficiency and rated 27th. They promoted Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser to the top unit, went 2-for-3 and won 3-2.

“It was a bolder move and he (assistant coach Newell Brown) actually texted me late at night (before the Kings game),” recalled coach Travis Green. “He said: ‘Let’s go with this.’ I was in total agreement.”

2. More ice, more Vanek magic: Thomas Vanek wasn’t complaining when averaging just 13:44 minutes of ice time. But injuries and opportunity have provided the 33-year-old winger with incentive. He had the third five-point night of his career Thursday in 16:48 of playing time, the second most this season.

“You have a good feel for the game and you stay in the game,” he said. “Sometimes you walk away with zero points, but you walk away with the confidence that you are making plays and are involved.”

3. Eriksson’s offence vanishes: Sam Gagner, Vanek and Boeser combined for a dozen points Thursday. At times, they looked like the Harlem Globetrotters with the puck on a string. It was quite the sight.

However, the line of Henrik and Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson were pointless in the 5-2 win over Chicago. Eriksson had three shots but his offence has dried up. He has gone 12 games without scoring and hasn’t scored since a two-goal outing in Nashville on Nov. 30.

4. Can Markstrom get on a roll?: Jacob Markstrom was good Thursday. He was calm in a 30-save performance against the Blackhawks. There was little over-committing on the first shot — except for being on his knees for a late garbage-time goal by Ryan Hartman — and needing to have his head on a swivel against the swift-passing Hawks tested his positional play.

The cage is there for the taking and the anointed starter needs to string games together to keep it from becoming a talking point.

5. Dowd won’t lack incentive: Nic Dowd played 91 games for the Kings over three seasons. Being traded to the Canucks on Dec. 7 for Jordan Subban was a fresh start and he initially struggled. Six penalties through eight games. Trouble in the circle. But he has been better of late and will have to be tonight in matchup roles.

Canucks forwards

Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner, Brock Boeser

Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Loui Eriksson

Nikolay Goldobin, Markus Granlund, Jake Virtanen

Brendan Gaunce, Nic Dowd, Reid Boucher

Canucks defence

Alex Edler, Troy Stecher

Michael Del Zotto, Derrick Pouliot

Ben Hutton, Erik Gudbranson

Canucks starting goalie

Expected: Jacob Markstrom

Canucks sick bay

Bo Horvat (foot)

Sven Baertschi (jaw)

Brandon Sutter (upper body)

Chris Tanev (groin)

Kings forwards

Tanner Pearson, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown

Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, Tyler Toffoli

Marian Gaborik, Nick Shore, Trevor Lewis

Andy Andreoff, Torrey Mitchell, Johnny Brodzinski

Kings defence

Jake Muzzin, Drew Doughty

Kurtis MacDermid, Alec Martinez

Derek Forbort, Kevin Gravel

Kings starting goalie

Expected: Jonathan Quick

Kings sick bay

Jeff Carter (ankle)

Christian Folin (upper body)

Power play

Canucks: 21.4% (8th)

Kings: 15.3% (28th)

Penalty kill

Canucks: 77.4% (26th)

Kings: 87.0% (1st)

NHL ranking

Canucks: 25th

Kings: 5th

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Kings defenceman Drew Doughty can be hard on opposing forwards.

Kings defenceman Drew Doughty can be hard on opposing forwards.

Photograph by: Harry How, The Province

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