The Vancouver Canucks will be seeking to end a two-game losing streak tonight and they couldn't have picked a less palatable opponent than the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. File: Vancouver Canucks Henrik Sedin (left) Daniel Sedin (centre) and Andrew Alberts work with pucks at the bench before the game the against Phoenix Coyotes in NHL action at Rogers Arena February 26, 2013.
Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, PNG
L.A. KINGS AT VANCOUVER CANUCKS
TONIGHT, 7 PM, ROGERS ARENA
TV: CBC. RADIO: TEAM 1040.
VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks will be seeking to end a two-game losing streak tonight and they couldn't have picked a less palatable opponent than the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Other than the unbeatable Chicago Blackhawks, the Kings are the hottest team in the NHL's Western Conference with five straight victories. They have also won seven of eight after limping out of the gate with just three wins in 10.
In their recent seven victories, the Kings have held their opponents to one goal six times. The only team to score more than one? Not surprisingly, it was the Blackhawks, who edged the Kings 3-2 on Feb. 17. Then, of course, there is last year's playoffs when the Kings took out the Canucks in five games in the first round, holding Vancouver to just eight goals.
“They maybe got off to a slow start but they're looking a lot like the team that won it all last year,” noted Canuck netminder Cory Schneider, who will start tonight's contest. “You have to earn every inch of ice against them because they don't give up a whole lot in the defensive end. It probably won't be a pretty game.”
The Canucks will unveil new fourth-line left winger Tom Sestito against the Kings. Picked up on waivers Friday from the Philadelphia Flyers, Sestito is a 6-5, 228 pound behemoth who is now the largest player on the team. He was surprised the Canucks wound up with his rights.
“I heard rumours about Edmonton but I was ecstatic to come here,” Sestito said following today's morning skate. “I've been here a couple of times and I love it. It's a great city. I was drafted here by Columbus, which is where it all started, and then I came back and scored my first NHL goal here.”
Asked for a scouting report on himself, the 25-year-old replied: “I think I just need to keep my game simple, not make mistakes, hit hard and fight when I have to. I haven't played a game for a couple of weeks (charley horse) but I'm ready to go. It's all healed up.”
Canuck head coach Alain Vigneault admitted he doesn't know much about the Utica, N.Y., native. Vigneault has gathered some information from minor-league coach Scott Arniel, who had Sestito in Columbus, and some of the Canuck pro scouts.
“What you have is a big body who is supposed to play the game with an edge and understands his role on the team,” Vigneault said. “So we'll give him an opportunity tonight to see what he can do.”
Meanwhile, Canuck defenceman Kevin Bieksa (groin) will be a game-time decision. Bieksa has missed the last two Vancouver games but practised fully on Friday and took today's morning skate without any apparent setbacks.
“He'll be a game-time decision,” Vigneault said. “But if the morning skate is a reflection of how he'll feel tonight, there is a good chance he'll play.”
Bieksa was hedging his bets.
“Every day I feel a little bit better,” he explained. “I hate missing time and we have the defending Stanley Cup champions in here tonight. These are usually pretty fun emotional games so if there is any chance to play, I will.”
Kings captain Dustin Brown is happy with his team's recent play but hardly seemed satisfied.
“I think we're definitely playing better than we did earlier on but there is still a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “I think some of our key players have been playing better hockey but we still have a lot of work to get to where we want to be.”
Brown is expected to skate tonight with usual linemates Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams while Mike Richards centres the second line with wingers Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis. Jarret Stoll pivots the third line with Dwight King and Dustin Penner.
Jonathan Quick is scheduled to start in goal. He's 6-5-2 this season with a 2.42 goals against average and .906 save percentage.
ICE CHIP: Jeff Carter leads the Kings in goals with 11 while Anze Kopitar leads in points with 17. Defenceman Slava Voynov is a plus-12, tied for fourth best in the league with Canuck captain Henrik Sedin and three others... The Kings power play is 21st at 15.5 per cent while the Canucks are 12th at 17.7... On the penalty kill, the Kings are 16th (81.6 per cent) and the Canucks are 21st (79.7)... Referees for tonight's game are Kelly Sutherland and Greg Kimmerly.
INJURIES: The Canucks will be without C Ryan Kesler (broken foot) and possibly Kevin Bieksa (groin). The Kings are missing defencemen Willie Mitchell (knee) and Matt Greene (back) while Alec Martinez (upper body) may return tonight.
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