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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 7:44 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Richards steps up as leader for Kings

VANCOUVER -- How good was Mike Richards in his first playoff game for the Los Angeles Kings?

Forget scoring his team's first goal on a 5-on-3 power play, pouncing on a turnover to set up the go-ahead goal with 3:14 left or adding a third point by assisting on an empty-netter in the dying seconds of L.A.'s 4-2 Game 1 victory in Vancouver on Wednesday.

The true measure of Richards’ effectiveness came when Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was asked about his matchup with his own second-line center Ryan Kesler, who also happens to be the reigning Selke Trophy winner.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 5:17 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Daniel Sedin doesn't skate again for Canucks

Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin was not on the ice Thursday.

He wasn’t alone.

It was an optional practice for both the Kings and Canucks after Los Angeles, with most of the top players taking the day off leading into Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series Friday night.

Still, with Sedin not skating for a second straight day it seems highly unlikely he will return to help Vancouver try and even the series after losing the opener 4-2 on Wednesday night. Out since March 21 with a concussion, there was optimism when Sedin practiced with the team Monday. But it faded when he skated with a small group after practice Tuesday, and stayed off the ice the next two.

Sedin, who won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer last season, led the Canucks with 30 goals and was second in points with 67 despite missing the final nine games of the regular season after an elbow from Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith, who was suspended five games for the hit.

As for an optional skate after losing an opener for first time in eight playoff series, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said areas of concern – and they had several, most notably an ineffective power play – would be address in meetings.

“Just felt it was the right thing to do to make sure our guys are ready for tomorrow,” Vigneault said of the off day for most. “We’re working on a lot of things right now, so you don’t need to worry about that.”
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 5:24 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Kings understand they must deal with frustrations

VANCOUVER -- Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar is preparing to be frustrated by the Canucks.

So is defenseman Drew Doughty, but the similarities end there.

Kopitar, the Kings' leading scorer, is expecting to see a lot of Samuel Pahlsson in the first round of the playoffs. He knows Vancouver's new checking center well from his time with rival Anaheim, where Pahlsson won a Stanley Cup in 2007 and established a reputation as one of the game's top shutdown pivots.

"He's a hard-working guy, all over the ice and one of the top guys shutting down," Kopitar said. "It's going to be tough to play against him, obviously."

It could very well be the key matchup between a Kings team that has relied heavily on its top line of late, and a Canucks team that altered its identity slightly by refocusing on the defensive end after acquiring Pahlsson at the deadline.

In addition to matching up against the opposition's best forwards, Pahlsson combined with Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen to provide steady offense, with eight goals and seven assists since they were reunited for the last 10 games of the regular season.

Coach Alain Vigneault called it his best line since then. It's the only one he hasn't tinkered with since top goal scorer Daniel Sedin was concussed on March 21.

"Our best line at both ends of the rink," Vigneault said. "They've generated and created and been on the score sheet, and defensively they have been reliable."

For all that Pahlsson does in that mix, talking is not among them. Unlike a lot of antagonizing checkers in the NHL, the quiet Swede lets his play do the talking.

"No, I haven't heard too much of him chirping on the ice," Kopitar said. "But he's certainly a guy that is in your face all the time, and he's one of the best shutdown guys in the League, and I am going to have to prepare myself for that."

Besides, the Canucks have plenty of other guys to do the chirping, something Doughty found out in their playoff meeting two years ago.

"There was a few times I got into it with [Alexandre] Burrows and took a few dumb penalties that took me off the ice," Doughty said. "I definitely learned from that."

His teammates and coaches at the time made sure of it. Doughty doesn't need another reminder as he tries to avenge that six-game loss in the first round.

"It's tough at times, but I can always get back at them during the play, make a big hit or a big stop or whatever it may be," he said. "That's what really matters."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 4:16 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Kings' Carter ready for Game 1

VANCOUVER -- Their playoff series hasn’t started yet, but already the Los Angeles Kings are leading the Canucks 1-0 when it comes to welcoming back key forwards from injury.

While the Canucks were talking about missing top goal scorer Daniel Sedin for Game 1 of the playoffs Wednesday night because of a concussion, the Kings were preparing to welcome back Jeff Carter from a bone bruise that kept him out the last five games of the regular season.

“Good to go,” Carter said after joining teammates for a third straight day Wednesday.

That’s welcome news for a Kings team that has improved offensively since his arrival in a blockbuster trade with Columbus that reunited Carter with fellow former Flyers forward Mike Richards.

The Kings were dead last in scoring before Carter arrived, but averaged more than three goals in the 21 games after his arrival, which would be top-four in the NHL for the entire season. Carter only has six of them, and just nine points overall, but he balanced out the top six and created more room and less checking pressure for Anze Kopitar’s top line.

“I think I filled a hole, kind of balance things out maybe, shifted guys into roles that probably suit them well,” Carter said. “Just a little bit of balance.”

That balance will be important after the Canucks created a shutdown line with the trade deadline addition of center Samuel Pahlsson, who is expected to go head-to-head with Kopitar.

"[Carter] definitely adds a threat all over the ice at all times and we all know he can score some big goals and we need him to do that for us," Kopitar said. "It spreads everything out and maybe those guys can't; just key on the top line because it spreads the scoring around and that's what you need in the playoffs if you want to go deep."

Here are the rest of the expected lines as the Kings, who are missing Brad Richardson after undergoing an appendectomy Monday, try to avenge a six-game, first-round loss to Vancouver two years ago:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan
 
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Likely Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick is in goal, with Jonathan Bernier backing up.   
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Raymond to start in Sedin's spot for Game 1

VANCOUVER -- With Daniel Sedin sitting out Game 1 of the Canucks' Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Kings on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC), the Canucks will do a bit of line-juggling.

Mason Raymond, who missed the last regular-season game to witness the birth of his first child, will take Sedin's spot on the top line, alongside Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows, while Maxim Lapierre, who played well in Daniel's place on the top line, shifts to the second line.

Here is how the Canucks likely will look when they hit the ice Wednesday for Game 1, including Zack Kassian's return after missing two games with a shoulder injury:
 
Mason Raymond - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows
Maxim Lapierre - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Chris Higgins - Samuel Pahlsson - Jannik Hansen
Manny Malhotra - Byron Bitz - Zack Kassian
 
Dan Hamhuis - Chris Tanev
Alexander Edler - Kevin Bieksa
Aaron Rome - Sami Salo
 
Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 1:54 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Daniel Sedin won't play Game 1 for Canucks

VANCOUVER -- Daniel Sedin did not take part in Wednesday's morning skate at Rogers Arena and has been ruled out for Game 1 against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night.

"There is nothing new to report. Obviously he's not going to play tonight," coach Alain Vigneault said.

Sedin, who won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer last season, practiced with teammates Monday for the first time since being concussed by an elbow from Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith on March 21, but was not out with the main group on Tuesday, skating instead with a smaller group of spare part players after the main session ended.

Twin brother Henrik said Daniel was "100 percent" on Monday, and despite the absence Tuesday, coach Alain Vigneault said Sedin hadn't suffered a setback in his recovery.

Daniel, who missed the final nine games of the season but still leads the team with 30 goals and is second with 67 points, has not talked with reporters since the injury, which earned Keith a five-game suspension.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 2:15 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Daniel Sedin absent from Canucks practice Tuesday

Vancouver forward Daniel Sedin practiced with teammates Monday, but didn't talk.

He didn't practice Tuesday, but skated shortly after.

What does it mean for the Canucks' leading scorer in Game 1 of the playoffs Wednesday?

No one with the Canucks was saying, leaving only question marks about whether last season's Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL's leading scorer would be ready to return from a March 21 concussion in time to face the Los Angeles Kings when Vancouver starts the first round.

Twin brother Henrik, who said Daniel was "100 percent" a day earlier, offered only no comments when asked about his lifelong linemate's health and playing status.

Coach Alain Vigneault did at least say Sedin hadn't suffered a setback in his recovery after practicing for the first time with teammates on Monday, but that was about it.

"It's not a setback," Vigneault said twice. "It's a unique injury and he will continue the protocol and when he's ready to play he'll address you. Until then he won't talk to you."

Daniel, who missed the final nine games of the season, but still leads the team with 30 goals and is second with 67 points, did not talk with reporters after practicing on Monday. He skated with regular linemates Henrik and Alexandre Burrows, and worked in his usual spot on the top power-play unit, staying out through the end of a hard skating session at the end. On Tuesday he didn't go on the ice until most teammates were talking to the media -- mostly not answering questions about his status.

Daniel skated for 40 minutes with six spares, including Keith Ballard, who is coming off a concussion of his own and not expected to play in Game 1, doing drills with skill coach Glenn Carnegie, and firing into a net guarded only by a shooter tutor.

There was no word -- or even a hint -- if he'd play Wednesday.

"You should know by know I don't discuss lineup decisions," Vigneault said.

Daniel still wasn't wearing a white helmet the way Ballard, who has been out since early February, did before he was cleared for contact last week. But there was no contact.

Keith was suspended five games for the hit. The Canucks won eight of their last nine games without Daniel to secure a second-straight Presidents' Trophy.


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Posted On Monday, 04.09.2012 / 2:12 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Daniel Sedin skates with Canucks at practice

Daniel Sedin rejoined the Vancouver Canucks at practice Monday morning.

Sedin, who won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer last season, took his usual spot on the top line alongside twin brother Henrik and Alexandre Burrows.

Vancouver's leading goal scorer hasn't played since being concussed by an elbow from Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith on March 21, but his return was a positive sign Sedin could be ready for Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs, Wednesday night against Los Angeles.

Sedin, who still leads the team with 30 goals and is second with 67 points despite missing the final nine games, skated on his own with a skills coach before practice and stayed out with the main group when they took to the ice. Sedin wasn't wearing a white helmet the way defenseman Keith Ballard, who has been out since early February with a concussion, did before he was cleared for full contact in practice last week.





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Posted On Saturday, 04.07.2012 / 4:27 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Canucks after top spot in West, Presidents' Trophy

The Canucks can lock up the top spot in the in the Western Conference - and perhaps the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top team - by winning Saturday's regular-season finale against Edmonton.

Perhaps more exciting, however, are reports that top goal scorer Daniel Sedin, out since an elbow to the head from Duncan Keith on March 21, has been skating on his own. First reported by TSN's Farhan Lalji Saturday afternoon and confirmed later in a Vancouver Province story, word that Sedin has skated by himself the last few days and is expected to be ready for the playoffs puts a positive spin on his twin brother's comments a bit earlier.

"As time has moved on he's felt better," Henrik Sedin said. "But until you are on the ice and feel comfortable playing a game, [concern is] always going to be there."

Henrik said those concerns are fueled by seeing players like Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who has missed 22 games with a concussion, still out.

"For sure, those guys I'm sure after a week they thought they were going got be able to play in three or four days, and 20 games later they still haven't played," he said. "That's always going to be there until he's back."

With the absence of Daniel, and fellow top-six forward Mason Raymond away for the birth of his first child, the Canucks will shake up their forward lines again. Here's how all the lines are expected to look Saturday:

CANUCKS

Andrew EbbettHenrik SedinAlexandre Burrows
Maxim LapierreRyan KeslerDavid Booth
Chris HigginsSamuel PahlssonJannik Hansen
Manny MalhotraByron BitzZack Kassian

Dan Hamhuis – Chris Tanev
Alexander EdlerSami Salo
Andrew AlbertsAaron Rome

Roberto Luongo is back in goal after watching Cory Schneider start in Calgary on Thursday, giving Luongo one last chance to erase the memories of being pulled form his last start before the playoffs start next week.

Maxim Lapierre, who has played well since moving up from the fourth line to the first line in place of Daniel Sedin, is moving down to try and spark a struggling second line. Andrew Ebbett, playing his fourth game after missing almost three months with a broken collarbone, moves up to the first line, while AHL call-up Byron Bitz centers the fourth unit.

The only line that remains intact is the checking unit anchored by Samuel Pahlsson, which has been the team’s best trio for at least two weeks.

On the back end, Chris Tanev comes back from a maintenance day, while Marc-Andre Gragnani, who now has played enough games to become a restricted free agent instead of an unrestricted free agent, will be a healthy scratch.
 
OILERS

Teemu HartikainenRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle
Ryan JonesSam GagnerAles Hemsky
Eric BelangerShawn HorcoffRyan Smyth
Darcy HordichukChris VandeVeldeBen Eager
 
Ryan WhitneyNick Schultz
Cam BarkerJeff Petry
Andy SuttonColten Teubert
 
Devan Dubnyk starts in goal for a fourth straight game – and 12th time in the last 14 – ahead of veteran Nikolai Khabibulin
 
The Oilers are locked into 14th place in the Western Conference and another lottery pick in the NHL Draft, but coach Tom Renney made it clear they have something to play for beyond just spoiling the Canucks’ night.

“The fact we’ve had the type of season we’ve had is motivation in itself and as I explained to the guys out on the ice just now this is the first game of next year,” Renney said. “Better play that way.”

Ben Eager, who has a long history of antagonizing the Canucks during his time in Chicago and San Jose, draws back into the lineup on the fourth line.

With defensemen Ladislav Smid (neck), Theo Peckham and Corey Potter (both concussions) all still out, prospect Colten Teubert remains with the Oilers on emergency recall and gets to play his first NHL game in front of family and friends form his nearby suburban hometown of White Rock, B.C.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.03.2012 / 5:30 PM

By Kevin Woodley -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Bieksa, Sedin remain out of Canucks' lineup

Top-four Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa was back on the ice for an optional morning skate, but will miss his fourth straight game Tuesday night against the Anaheim Ducks as he continues to take an extended "maintenance day."

"I'm just going to take it one maintenance day at a time,” Bieksa said, using the words "maintenance" or "maintain" more than a dozen times during a brief but entertaining back and forth with the media. "There's no problem."

The status of Daniel Sedin, who will miss a seventh-straight game because of a concussion, isn't a laughing matter. Vancouver's top goal scorer still isn't skating, but reports Sedin has been at the rink working out off ice for three-straight days are at least positive, and indicate he could be back for the start of playoffs.

In the meantime, the healthy Canucks are taking motivation in a chance to stay atop the Western Conference and possibly claim a second-straight President’s Trophy as the NHL's top regular-season team. Thanks to a six-game win streak without Sedin, Vancouver is one point ahead of St. Louis in the West, and tied with the New York Rangers overall, with three games left for each team.

The Canucks play all three against non-playoff teams, and will use the chance to lock up home ice advantage in the playoffs as a way to get fired up

"We want to finish as high up in the conference as we can and obviously it's second or first and we want first," associate coach Rick Bowness said after Tuesday's morning skate. "Do we have a shot at the Presidents' Trophy again? Absolutely. Are we focused on making sure we take care of the day-to-day process and the in-game process to give ourselves a chance to do that? Absolutely. We want home-ice advantage. We saw the benefit of it last year, and even though it didn't help us in Game 7 against the Bruins, it was certainly nice going into every round knowing we had home ice. So we'd like that again."

For an Anaheim team in 13th place, the chance to spoil that is a goal.

"It is kind of what we've been talking about," Ducks top-line winger Corey Perry said. "They have something to play for and we just want to go out and play our game and if it happens to be as a spoiler, we're happy to do that."

Here are the expected lines as the 49-21-9 Canucks try to reach the 50-win mark for a second-straight season by extending their longest win streak of this season against a 33-35-11 Ducks team playing out the string -- possibly for the last time for veteran Finnish forwards Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu:

CANUCKS
Alexandre Burrows - Henrik Sedin - Maxim Lapierre
Mason Raymond - Ryan Kesler - David Booth
Chris Higgins - Samuel Pahlsson - Jannik Hansen
Andrew Ebbett - Manny Malhotra - Zack Kassian

Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev
Marc-Andre Gragnani - Alexander Edler
Andrew Alberts - Sami Salo

Roberto Luongo
Cory Schneider

Luongo will get a second-straight start in the late-season goaltending rotation, with Schneider expected to play in Calgary on Thursday.

While the Canucks only have six healthy defensemen right now, Bieksa said he could play now if the playoffs started early, and Aaron Rome (knee) and Keith Ballard (concussion) are also skating, though Ballard is still wearing a white helmet to indicate he hasn't been cleared for contact.

DUCKS
Jason Blake - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Niklas Hagman - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Bobby Ryan - Nick Bonino - Devante Smith-Pelly
Matt Beleskey - Andrew Cogliano - George Parros

Francois Beauchemin - Cam Fowler
Luca Sbisa - Lubomir Visnovsky
Mat Clark - Sheldon Brookbank

Jonas Hiller
Jeff Deslauriers

Veteran defenseman Toni Lydman is out with an upper-body injury, so Clark draws back into the lineup on the back end.
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