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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 5:16 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Struggles have Canucks facing must-win game

While his teammates danced around the inevitable question about whether Game 3 on Sunday night is a make-or-break game, Ryan Kesler spoke his mind.

“Obviously it’s a must-win game,” Kesler said. “You don’t want to go down, 3-0. We’re going to take it shift by shift tonight and I think improvement on special teams and continuing our improving our five-on-five play.”

As far as special teams, vancouver cOach Alain Vigneault may have had the line of the day when discUssing what he’d like to see differently from his special teams.

“Score a goal and not give up a goal,” he said.

The essence of the series so far is that Vancouver has gone 0-for-10 on the power play and allowed two shorthanded goals and three power-play goals. The Canucks have made tweaks such as moving Chris Higgins from the second power-play unit to the first and replacing Alex Edler with Dan Hamhuis on the first unit.

Vigneault also said that Dale Weise will be inserted in place of Andrew Ebbett on the fourth line.

“There’s obviously a couple of adjustments we need to make here – nothing that we haven’t seen all year,” Vigneault said.  “Give them a lot of credit. They’re putting a lot of pressure on us. They’re taking away our space and time. It’s just a matter of us executing better. We’ve done it at key moments this year, we just haven’t done it so far in this series."

Not only is Edler struggling on the power play, but he has had difficulties in all facets of the first two games, serving up giveaways in Games 1 and 2, including two egregious ones that led to goals. Asked if he gives a sort of pep talk to Edler, Vigneault said, “I think all our players right now are [struggling].

“You look at … [L.A. forwards Anze] Kopitar and [Dustin] Brown and take any one of our top forwards right now. Obviously their guys right now are playing a little bit better than ours. It’s a fine line between a win and a loss and whether it’d be Alex Edler or any one of our other players, everybody needs to know that it’s one game. We don’t need to worry about winning four games here. We need to focus on winning one game.”

Alexandre Burrows - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen
Chris Higgins - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Mason Raymond - Samuel Pahlsson - Maxim Lapierre
Zack Kassian - Manny Maholtra - Dale Weise

Alex Edler - Sami Salo
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Keith Ballard - Christopher Tanev

Cory Schneider
Roberto Luongo
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 4:44 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Down two games, Canucks turn to backup Schneider

SANTA MONICA, Calif.-- Cory Schneider will start in goal for the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night, coach Alain Vigneault said.

Vigneault said he was satisfied with Roberto Luongo's performance in Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals, but he wants to change it up for Game 3 against the Los Angeles Kings.

"Two great goaltenders -- I've used both of them all year long," Vigneault said. "Obviously being down, 2-0, the way we are right now is not a reflection of the goaltending that we've had so far; but it's time to change the momentum a little bit and this is one of the cards we might have."

Luongo has done a tremendous job handling the puck against the Kings' aggressive forecheck. Schneider is not regarded as good a puck handler, but his teammates reiterated it is about trying to reverse their fortunes.

"I think both goalies have done everything we've asked them to do this year," star forward Henrik Sedin said. "Goaltending is not the problem in this series. We're trying to do something new tonight."

Said forward Ryan Kesler, "Lu's played extremely well for us. Being down, 2-0, coach thought he needed to make a change. Obviously Cory would be a starter on any other team, so the apple doesn't fall far from the tree on that one."

Schneider, 26, may be the No.2 goaltender in Vancouver, but he was also the second-best goaltender in the entire NHL when it came to save percentage during the regular season, posting a .937 that trailed only Brian Elliott in St. Louis. And Schneider's 1.96 goals-against average was third in the League, just .01 behind the Kings starter and Vezina Trophy candidate Jonathan Quick.
 
The only thing missing on Schneider's short NHL resume is extensive playoff success.

He did get a surprise – many would say shocking – start in the first round this past season against the rival Blackhawks, playing Game 6 in a hostile Chicago environment after the Canucks blew a 3-0 series lead. But the rookie turned two puck-handling gaffes into goals, and was forced to leave early after cramping up badly while getting beat on a penalty shot that tied the game.

Luongo went back in for Game 7, backstopped a 2-1 overtime victory and led the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final before struggling in Boston, getting pulled in two of three road games.

Perhaps because of that, the Canucks made sure to get Schneider more and tougher starts this season, including a big Cup rematch victory in Boston and another tough win in Chicago. And they were careful to keep the sophomore stopper fresh down the stretch, splitting time with -- and for the most part out-playing -- Luongo during the final six weeks of the regular season.

--Correspondent Kevin Woodley contributed to this report
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 6:25 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Kings know they have to finish the job


EL SEGUNDO, Calif.
– No Los Angeles Kings player was alive the last time the Kings had a 2-0 series lead. Los Angeles was in its first year of existence when it won the first two games against the Minnesota North Stars in 1968.

But …

"The Kings team that was up, 2-0, lost in seven games," captain Dustin Brown said.

Brown didn't thumb through a media guide. Someone told him how long it had been, and for good reason. The Kings are in uncharted territory with a 2-0 lead on the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, with the series shifting to Staples Center for Games 3 and 4.

The Kings are on letdown alert given their underwhelming postseason history. L.A. lost all three home games against San Jose in last season's quarterfinals and two of three against Vancouver in 2010.

"Historically, for this team in recent playoffs, we haven't played well at home," Brown said. "It's important to draw attention to that. We've done a good job getting two wins, but there's a lot of areas we can get better at and it's really important to take advantage of home ice."

The Kings were up, 2-1, on Vancouver in the 2010 quarterfinals and lost the next four games. Can they draw on that experience?

"What we've learned is when you're up, they're going to be a desperate hockey club," Anze Kopitar said. "We have to make sure we don't give them any life. As soon as there's a chance to finish them off, we have to finish them off. We didn't do that two years ago, but I think everybody's learned from that."

Five-on-five needs improvement: Despite the 2-0 lead, the Kings are not grading themselves well outside of special teams. They've scored three power play goals, two shorthanded and gone 10-for-10 on the penalty kill.
 
But there is a general feeling that Vancouver has been at least even and perhaps better in 5-on-5 play.
 
"We're up, 2-0, but we feel fortunate in a lot of ways to be up, 2-0," Jarret Stoll said.
 
Kopitar and Mike Richards pointed to committing too many turnovers and relying too much on Jonathan Quick, who made 46 saves in Game 2.

"We didn't spend a lot of time with the puck in five-on-five [Friday] night just because we turned too many pucks over and I thought we were chasing the game a little bit," Richards said.

Said Kopitar: "We've been shorthanded for close to 19 minutes in two games. That's too much. The penalties that we're taking are sometimes not the best penalties – holding and tripping. Those are the ones we have to avoid."

Experience factor: No Los Angeles player that came up through the organization has made it past the first round. Dustin Penner, Colin Fraser, Rob Scuderi and Justin Williams won the Stanley Cup with other teams.

Sutter alluded to that mix in needing to improve.

"It sort of overrides everything we've talked about," Sutter said. "We haven't had our foot on the gas the whole way. We have a number of guys that have experience with long playoffs or a lot of games played that can play a hell of a lot better."

Richardson skating, Clifford out: Brad Richardson resumed skating for the first time since he had an emergency appendectomy Monday night.

Richardson said his mother, Jan, a longtime nurse, diagnosed it after Richardson had pain Sunday. Richardson did not know when he would be cleared to play. He'll see a doctor on Monday.

"I was lucky I was there at the right time," Richardson said. "I feel a lot better than I was. I was on the ice a little bit today and I felt okay. It's still pretty sore, but I think that's the way it is."

Kyle Clifford (upper body) did not skate and Sutter did not have an update.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 4:42 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Carter 'doing pretty good' expects to be a go

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter all but pronounced himself ready to play in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Vancouver on Wednesday.

Carter is recovering from a bone bruise in his right foot. He has taken turns skating with usual linemate Mike Richards the past two days.

"It felt better today," Carter said. "I think it takes a little bit to kind of warm up, but once I get going it's doing pretty good."

In a bit of playoff posturing, L.A. coach Darryl Sutter was coy Monday and said Carter has "a ways to go," but Carter said Tuesday he doesn't think he has to sell Sutter on returning.

"It doesn't seem like it," Carter said. "I feel like I'm getting better and I feel like I can contribute."

Carter had said last week he expected to be ready for the postseason.

Sutter joked about the secretive nature of injury updates from teams at this time of year. Told that Daniel Sedin of Vancouver didn't skate Tuesday, Sutter said, "Well, them guys are playing games with us, right? We shouldn't have had Carter practice and I could say, 'He's not traveling.'"

Sutter is preparing for a Vancouver team with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

"Absolutely," he said. "Sedin, Sedin, [Alexandre] Burrows."

Kopitar and Williams healthy:
This was not the best time of year last season for Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. Kopitar had a season-ending leg injury March 27 and Williams dislocated his shoulder March 21.
Williams opted to rehabilitate it rather than have surgery, and he came back for the opening round wearing a protective harness.

In contrast, Kopitar and Williams have been two of the Kings' most productive forwards late this season. Kopitar had eight goals and 17 assists in his final 20 games. Williams had only 10 goals in his first 51 games, but 10 goals and nine assists over his final 21 games.

"Later in the season, you're more comfortable, you're in better shape," Williams said. "Especially playing all the games this year -- that was extremely helpful not having a break, being able to continue to get better and I think your speed picks up.

"When you're able to play all the games and you're able to try and get better every time, it's certainly a lot easier, whereas if you have an injury, you got to come back and you're constantly fighting ups and downs."

Kopitar watched last season's quarterfinal loss from the press box and didn't spend much time around the team. It's been two years since he last played a playoff game.

"It's just as exciting," Kopitar said. "I've been ready for it."

Dustin Brown's line with Kopitar and Williams is expected to be back together, and it has been by far the Kings' best lately.

"We just found our stride and caught fire at the right time," Kopitar said. "Mid-March and all the way through it was a must-win for us every game, so that's probably a good thing going into the playoffs right now because a seven-game series can be over pretty quick."

Sutter on pre-game anthems:
Sutter was asked if he will get nervous behind the bench during the national anthems before Game 1, and he referenced the singers at Staples Center that are known for their long renditions.

"They sing both them songs, so they're both good," Sutter said. "You get an extra minute-and-a-half. The only difference in Los Angeles is sometimes when they sing the song, they take three-and-a-half minutes."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 3:45 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Richardson out after emergency appendectomy

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings winger Brad Richardson had an emergency appendectomy and is unavailable for the immediate future, coach Darryl Sutter said Tuesday.

Richardson had symptoms "the last couple of days" and had the procedure done Monday night, according to Sutter.

Sutter had no idea how long Richardson will be out, but Richardson is expected to at least miss Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Wednesday in Vancouver.

Sutter said he underwent the same procedure four or five years ago when he was with the Calgary Flames.

"Better to have it out than have it ruptured, because it's not about hockey," Sutter said. "The procedures they have now -- you're resuming activity within a couple of days. You know what? We won't have him for a while."

Richardson was inserted on the top line when Jeff Carter had a bone bruise. Richardson had two goals against Minnesota on March 31 and an assist against Edmonton on April 2 in Carter's absence.

"We played without Carter," Sutter said. "We've been short, so we know [what it's like]."

The Kings have recalled center Andrei Loktionov from Manchester of the American Hockey League.
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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 3:22 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Beauchemin to require surgery for torn labrum

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Anaheim Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin said Monday he will need surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

Beauchemin said the issue got worse from the beginning of the season and he wasn't able to be as physical toward the end. The recovery will take about three to four months.

"It's been bothering me for a few weeks," Beauchemin said on Anaheim's day of exit meetings.

"A few months, actually … I'll take care of it now and then. I've got all summer to get it better, rehab it and everything."

Beauchemin was perhaps the team's best defenseman for much of the season and excelled after he signed a three-year contract extension Jan. 20.

Selanne's decision:
Teemu Selanne had no update on his impending decision to retire or return for a 20th season.

Selanne has said he will inform general manager Bob Murray his decision by July 1, his 42nd birthday. Selanne has typically delayed that decision until at least August although that happened last year because of knee surgery.
That’s not an issue this time around.

"I'm really thankful that the knee is holding up so well and I had no real issue," Selanne said.

Selanne said coach Bruce Boudreau didn't try to persuade him into returning.

"We had a good meeting," he said. "Obviously he's going to respect my decision either way. He said he's really open arms welcoming back if I want to come back. That’s really good news."

Selanne and Saku Koivu both said they are undecided about playing for Finland in the World Championship.

Visnovsky OK: Lubomir Visnovsky said he's OK from a hit he took last Thursday in Edmonton in which he was upended and banged his head.

"I had the test (for) concussion symptoms and I was OK," he said. "I'll be OK."

Visnovsky said he was quite disappointed with his season, so much so that he contemplated retirement.

"I was very mad in the season because I don't feel comfortable," he said. "I think it was (my) worst season ever for me. My confidence was very low."

Visnovsky said he is "retired" from the Slovakian national team and won't play in the worlds. The tournament was held in Slovakia last year and Visnovsky wanted to end it there.

"That was my world championships," he said.

Ducks headed to the Worlds:
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry confirmed they will play for Canada in next month's World Championship. Bobby Ryan said he will suit up for the U.S. and indicated that Cam Fowler and Nick Bonino will join him.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 3:32 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kings defenseman Voynov a game-time decision

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Slava Voynov will likely be a game-time decision for the Los Angeles Kings for a Pacific Division showdown Thursday against the San Jose Sharks.

Voynov took part in all of the morning skate but L.A. coach Darryl Sutter wouldn't say whether the young defenseman would play.

"We'll see," Sutter said. "I'm not going to lie to you and I'm not to give you any secrets, either."

Sutter said on Wednesday that Voynov was "banged up" and he gave him the day off.

If Voynov cannot play, the Kings can insert Davis Drewiske.

Voynov scored the game-winning goal Monday against Edmonton.

Carter out: Jeff Carter skated on his own for about 20 minutes but he is unlikely to play in the final two games.

Carter is recovering from a bone bruise in his ankle and Sutter said he won't play until he has a full practice with the team.

Carter didn't think that would happen Friday, either.

"I'm not sure," Carter said. "I would doubt it. I think I'll probably get back out there and do a little more and see how it responds. We'll see how it feels tonight when I get to the game after skating. It could seize up again. It's kind of a wait-and-see thing."

Carter said he would be ready for the opener of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, assuming L.A. makes it.

"I really don't think that’s an issue," he said. "I should be good to go."

Murray doubtful: San Jose coach Todd McLellan said that even if defenseman Douglas Murray is healthy, he would stick with his current defensive lineup, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Murray has missed three games with a lower-body injury.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.05.2012 / 3:30 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks, Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Here's how the lineups project when the San Jose Sharks visit the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Thursday in the front end of a home-and-home to conclude the regular season:

SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
TJ Galiardi - Dominic Moore - Torrey Mitchell
Daniel Winnik - Andrew Desjardins - Tommy Wingels

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Brent Burns - Jason Demers
Justin Braun - Colin White

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

KINGS
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Brad Richardson
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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Posted On Monday, 04.02.2012 / 4:29 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Oilers' Potter sitting out

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- According to the Edmonton Journal, Oilers defenseman Corey Potter is out with a concussion from a hit by the Anaheim Ducks' Bobby Ryan during Sunday's game.

Ryan appeared to hit Potter up near the head in the first period. No penalty was called on the play and Potter played the rest of the game.

The Oilers made an emergency recall of defenseman Bryan Rodney from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League.

Here is the lineup the Oilers likely will put on the ice Monday when they face the Los Angeles Kings:

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle - Teemu Hartikainen
Ales Hemsky - Eric Belanger - Sam Gagner
Ryan Smyth - Shawn Horcoff - Ryan Jones
Ben Eager - Chris Vandevelde - Lennart Petrell

Ryan Whitney - Nick Schultz
Andy Sutton - Bryan Rodney
Cam Barker - Colten Teubert

Nikolai Khabibulin
Devan Dubnyk
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Posted On Monday, 04.02.2012 / 4:21 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Drewiske to get back in Kings' lineup

EL SEGUNDO, Calif -- Kings defenseman Davis Drewiske came off the ice with the regulars and coach Darryl Sutter indicated he will play him at some point down the stretch "because at some point we're going to need him."

Drewiske last played Feb. 21. He has two goals in nine games this season.

Here's the rest of the lineup the Kings likely will use Monday against the Edmonton Oilers:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Brad Richardson
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Davis Drewiske

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier
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