Game Day: Drew Doughty can't wait to "get after" Canucks
Vancouver's visit could be tonic to Kings' hangover
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Los Angeles Kings, meet the hangover. You're not going to like him.
But defenceman Drew Doughty figures he has something better than a couple of aspirins and a glass of tomato juice: a visit tonight by the Vancouver Canucks.
“Waking up this morning knowing we're playing Van, everyone is so pumped to get out there and get after them,” Doughty said after the struggling Kings had a spirited morning skate in suburban El Segundo. “It's going to be a physical matchup, which everyone loves. At the same time, you're getting banged and giving it back. There's nothing more rewarding than beating a team that's won the (Presidents' Trophy) the last couple of years in a row. So we're really looking forward to hopefully do that tonight. A big win tonight against a big team like them would definitely give us a confidence boost.”
But there would be nothing more rewarding for the Canucks – for now – than to beat the Kings, who trounced them in five playoff games last April during Los Angeles' rampage towards its first Stanley Cup.
Ironically, Roberto Luongo is expected to play in goal for Vancouver, which lost 4-1 Sunday night in San Jose with new starter Cory Schneider in net. It was here during the playoffs at the Staples Center that Luongo was deposed by Schneider as the National Hockey League team's No. 1 goalie, setting in motion events that led to a mutual agreement between Luongo and Canuck management that he should be traded. Nine months later, Luongo is still waiting for that trade as general manager Mike Gillis sticks fervently to what's believed to be a steep asking price for the 33-year-old netminder.
Luongo could be gone in the next phone call to Gillis. Nobody knows which start for the Canucks will be his last.
“We don't really care whoever they put in net,” Doughty said. “We're going to study both goalies. We're going to know their weaknesses and strengths and do everything we can to put as many pucks past them as we can.”
But so far this season, the Kings have struggled to put pucks past anyone.
The defending champions are 1-2-1 and have scored just eight goals, a recurrence of the offensive problems that led to Terry Murray's dismissal last season and the Kings' final ranking of 29th among 30 teams in scoring.
But they had no trouble scoring in the playoffs, losing only four times on their way to the Stanley Cup.
As a reward, coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi brought nearly the entire lineup back intact without adding anyone to the offence. So maybe it's not surprising the Kings are averaging only two goals per game.
Centre Mike Richards doesn't yet have a point and is minus-four in the four games. First-liners Justin Williams and Dustin Brown have only a single assist apiece, and the team's leading scoring is enforcer Kyle Clifford (1-4-5 pts), which is great for Clifford but probably a bad sign for Los Angeles.
Clifford is playing on the second line instead of Dustin Penner, who will be a healthy scratch tonight for the third straight game. The only one more frustrated than Penner is Sutter, who reiterated this morning he has no explanation for defenceman Willie Mitchell's continued absence.
Returning from a knee injury, Mitchell has been “medically cleared” to practise and play but hasn't gone on the ice the last two days. He has been made more conspicuous by the back injury to blueliner Matt Greene.
On top of this, the Kings are struggling for motivation the way nearly every Cup finalist has since the previous lockout.
“The first few games you play, all you can remember the previous atmosphere pretty much at it's highest,” veteran defenceman Rob Scuderi explained. “And it's not that the game isn't hard, but you can feel there's less pressure. It's up to each individual to find that competitiveness in themselves again.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Canucks – G Roberto Luongo. You never know when it will be his last game for the Canucks, and he has something to show the Kings after losing his title in Los Angeles.
Kings – C Anze Kopitar missed the season-opener due to injury, but has averaged 20:24 of ice time since and is capable of single-handedly sparking the offence.
Canucks – C Ryan Kesler (wrist, shoulder), RW David Booth (groin).
Kings – D Willie Mitchell (knee), D Matt Greene (back).
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