Kings a royal pain for Canucks, but club excited for Saturday showdown

 

Vancouver has fared poorly with L.A., but team’s excited for Saturday showdown

 
 
 
 
Henrik Sedin and Alec Martinez battle last year. Sedin expects today’s clash to be ‘fun,’ despite Vancouver’s miserable record against L.A.
 

Henrik Sedin and Alec Martinez battle last year. Sedin expects today’s clash to be ‘fun,’ despite Vancouver’s miserable record against L.A.

Photograph by: Juan Ocampo, NHLI via Getty Images

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The Wizard of Oz was a man who laughed in the face of death and sneered at doom, which is what the Vancouver Canucks were doing Friday when discussing their next opponent, the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

The Canucks have not fared well against the champs this season. They have lost three straight, been outscored 12-3 and been outshot 96-54.

In the only game that was close on the scoreboard, a 3-2 loss at home on Jan. 1, the Canucks were outshot 40-16. Shot attempts were 67-33.

In their first visit to the Staples Center on Nov. 8, they were down 3-0 after the first period and lost 5-1. Shots that night were 36-19 and shot attempts were 60-37.

In the most recent meeting, March 12, the Canucks held the Kings to just 20 shots and 50 attempts while testing Jonathan Quick 19 times and attempting 40. But they were 4-0 losers and had no pushback in the third period, managing just three shots.

So they are staring metaphorical death and doom in the face when the puck drops today at 1 p.m. at Staples. Surprisingly, the Canucks were upbeat following practice Friday. Their chins were off the floor, the 6-2 pratfall Thursday against Columbus behind them.

“It’s a new beautiful day in the life of a hockey player and we are looking forward to the L.A. game,” said goaltender Eddie Lack. “Obviously they are a really, really good team. They’ve won two of the last three Stanley Cups so obviously it’s a big challenge for us. But you know what? I’ve felt when we’ve been up against the wall before, we’ve been able to pull out our best efforts. So I think excitement is the right word, for sure.”

Captain Henrik Sedin is always ready for a little bit of excitement.

“To be up 2-0 against a Columbus team that is really not in it, and they had nothing to really battle for except their pride, we gave it away on a few mistakes,” said Henrik. “So that should make the L.A. game fun.”

The Canucks don’t really measure up to the Kings in size, at the centre-ice position, on defence, or in goal. The Kings are the champs for a reason and the Canucks missed the playoffs last season for a reason. But the teams are only two points apart in this year’s standings with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

The Canucks have 84 points, the Kings 82 and they could meet in the playoffs. One, or both, could also miss. Everyone’s money is on the Kings to make it even though they were sitting below the playoff bar Friday. The Canucks have their doubters. A four-goal home-ice defeat to the injury-depleted Blue Jackets will plant those seeds. So will three dispiriting losses to the Kings.

“It’s what’s ahead of you that counts,” said Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins during his media session Friday. “What’s behind you, we can’t change that. So we have to worry about what’s ahead of us. Those losses to L.A., it doesn’t matter. It’s this one that matters and what we can bring forward. I’m confident in our group. I’m looking forward to the game and we’ll see what happens.

“It’s a good test for us and that’s all you want,” continued the coach. “You want a chance towards the end of the year to be able to play for playoffs and that’s what we’re doing.”

The Kings figure to be an ornery group. Since beating the Canucks 4-0, they have lost two of three and surrendered third-period leads in both losses. The victory was 1-0 over lowly Arizona. They may decide to take their frustrations out on the Canucks.

“I think the toughest thing about L.A. is that they’re a big-bodied team that plays hard,” Desjardins said. “We don’t have that size so we have to compete against them. We have to find a way to win the one-on-one battles. They’re hard to handle down low but we have to have more spark, or whatever, when we go in on those battles. We have to be able to win them — and that’s a big challenge. It’s not easy. But that’s something we have to do.”

They’ll also have to do it without injured forwards Brad Richardson (ankle) and Zack Kassian (suspected back), who skated before Friday’s main practice but were left at home for the quick two-game trip to L.A. and Arizona. Wingers Alex Burrows and Derek Dorsett didn’t skate Friday but did travel.

On the goalie front, Desjardins indicated that Lack would start against the Kings and that Jacob Markstrom would get the call Sunday in Arizona.

ICE CHIPS: Injured goalie Ryan Miller became a first-time father Friday when his wife, actress Noureen DeWulf, gave birth to a seven-pound boy. They have named their son Bodhi Ryan.

epap@vancouversun.comTwitter.com/elliottpap

 
 
 
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Henrik Sedin and Alec Martinez battle last year. Sedin expects today’s clash to be ‘fun,’ despite Vancouver’s miserable record against L.A.
 

Henrik Sedin and Alec Martinez battle last year. Sedin expects today’s clash to be ‘fun,’ despite Vancouver’s miserable record against L.A.

Photograph by: Juan Ocampo, NHLI via Getty Images

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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