VANCOUVER — What and who to watch for Saturday when the Vancouver Canucks host the Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Arena:
• THREE THEMES
DRAWING BLANKS: With only three natural centres in their lineup, the Canucks might have a tough night on faceoffs against the likes of Anze Kopitar and Jarret Stoll. Kopitar has won 55.8 per cent of his draws this season and will take many in the offensive zone. Stoll, who has eaten up Canuck centremen in the past, is at 52.8 per cent and will take many in the defensive zone. Without Ryan Kesler and Manny Malhotra, Henrik Sedin (50 per cent) and Max Lapierre (51.4) are the best Vancouver can offer. “I don’t think I’m expected to win every draw,” said fill-in centre Mason Raymond, who has taken 11 faceoffs this season and won five.
KING STOPPERS? After a slow start, the champs are playing like champs again with five straight victories. During last season’s playoffs, the Kings used their size to advantage to finish off the Canucks in five. Have the Canucks got enough to stay with them, especially without Kesler? Said Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault: “They’re on a roll right now, they’re playing big, they’re playing heavy and, if we want to compete against them, we’re obviously going to have to use our speed, use our skill and bring the best game that we have within this group right now.”
ON THE SCHNEID: Cory Schneider, the starter, has not been putting up the numbers he did as Cory Schneider, the backup. He knows it and so does everyone else who scrutinizes the Canucks, which means the entire province. It’s time for Schneider to be a difference-maker again. If not, he might find himself wearing a ball cap and watching Roberto Luongo get a run of games.
• PLAYERS TO WATCH
Mason Raymond, Nucks
When Ryan Kesler was out for the first 12 games, Alex Burrows was moved into the middle. Now it’s Raymond’s turn. Even he was uncertain Friday whether this experiment – which is what it is – will last. “We’ll see how long it carries on,” he said.
Dustin Brown, Kings
The L.A. captain is known for finishing his checks, getting into the goalie’s face and embellishing the odd hit on him. Will he be at his agitating best and, if so, will he face a response from the Canucks?
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