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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 1:44 PM

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

Kings-Canucks projected lineups for Game 5

It may surprise some to hear the Canucks are changing up their forward lines coming off their first win of the series and facing elimination for a second straight game, but the biggest change up front actually occurred midway through their Game 4 victory -- and is simply continuing in Game 5 on Sunday night.

Mason Raymond, whose soft check on Anze Kopitar turned a 2-on-2 rush into a 2-on-1 and the Kings’ only goal, dropped from the second line to the fourth, and if not for his effectiveness as a penalty killer might be out of the lineup entirely.

It’s a precipitous drop from the first line in place of Daniel Sedin to start the series, but the fall off from a 25-goal scorer three seasons ago has been steady, with just two goals in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games this past season before having his back broken by an awkward hit into the boards during Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“I know the young man is trying hard but obviously the way he is playing right now he doesn't deserve to be on one of the top-three lines,” coach Alain Vigneault said of Raymond. “We expect more from him.”

The Canucks, who only had a few players on the ice Sunday morning, are also taking rookie Zack Kassian, acquired from Buffalo for Cody Hogdson at the NHL Trade Deadline, off the fourth line and putting him in the press box. Replacing him is Dale Weise, who made his NHL playoff debut in Game 3 and only played three shifts and 1:54 of total ice time.

Vigneault said it was about trying to find a mix that can match the Kings’ fourth line, which got Brad Richardson back from an appendectomy for Game 4 and spent long stretches pinning the Canucks in their end.

“Their fourth line has been good, they've spent some quality time in our zone and we need to have a better response,” Vigneault said. “I’m hoping maybe by making those adjustments we will have that response.”

The Kings, who didn't skate at all Sunday morning, aren’t planning any changes, preaching the importance of maintaining the approach that got them ahead 3-0 to start this series.

Here are the rest of the expected lineups for Game 5:

CANUCKS

David BoothHenrik SedinDaniel Sedin
Alexandre BurrowsRyan KeslerMaxim Lapierre
Chris HigginsSamuel PahlssonJannik Hansen
Mason RaymondManny MalhotraDale Weise

Dan HamhuisKevin Bieksa
Alexander EdlerSami Salo
Keith Ballard – Chris Tanev

Cory Schneider makes his third straight start in goal, with Roberto Luongo, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, again relegated to the bench as backup.

KINGS

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

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

Vezina Trophy candidate Jonathan Quick continues in goal, with Jonathan Bernier backing up.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.22.2012 / 1:38 PM

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

Edler struggling to find consistency


Facing elimination and with no margin left for error, the Vancouver Canucks dropped ineffective forward Mason Raymond to the fourth line after a bad check cost them a goal in Game 4, and moved tentative rookie Zack Kassian from the lineup to the press box.

Things are a lot different for top-scoring defenseman Alexander Edler, whose struggles in the first three games could be directly tied to falling being 0-3 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Los Angeles Kings.

Edler, who had 11 goals, 49 points and was a first-time All Star this season, coughed the puck up at his own blue line on the winning goal in Game 1, turned it over with a drop pass that led to a shorthanded goal in Game 2, and was on the ice and failed to clear the zone on the only goal of a Game 3 loss. The Canucks stuck with him, though, knowing they needed Edler to have a chance, and he responded with a much better game and a power-play goal in Game 4, which the Canucks hope will be a turning point in his play.

“Give him credit,” said associate coach Rick Bowness, who runs the Canucks’ defense. “He took a lot of pressure on himself and knows he wasn’t up to his game the first three -- he overcame it [Wednesday] night and played much better. … Much more aggressive, much more assertive, much more confident.”

Edler’s struggles have been frustrating to a fan base that has seen the potential for so much more from the 6-foot-3 defender, who can be imposing physically one night and play tentative the next. The 26-year-old is blessed with a 100-mile-an-hour slap shot, but sometimes is too hesitant and struggles to launch it.

“We’ve had a few talks, yeah,” Bowness said. “We all want the end product, the finished product, right now. It took Steve Yzerman until he was 30 to figure it all out. Phil Mickelson didn’t win his first major until his mid-30s. We all want Alex to be the perfect guy right now, but it just doesn’t happen. It’s human nature.”

Bowness reiterated Edler “is a great player, is going to be a great player for a long time.” Down 3-1 to Los Angeles, the Canucks need that time to be now.

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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 5:21 PM

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

Carter happy for rest, hopes play keeps improving

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Sitting around for three days is probably not the ideal routine in a Stanley Cup Playoff series unless a team needs to get healthy.

For Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter, the time is beneficial for healing his ankle and detrimental in that he’s coming off a good game and would have like to get back to playing sooner.

“I would have rather have played every other day,” Carter said Saturday before the Kings left for Vancouver for Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday.

“But it can be good for us, I guess. We got some guys that are a little banged up – bumps and bruises or whatnot – so the extra couple days will definitely help in that way.”

A talking point at the beginning of the series, Carter and linemate Mike Richards each have no points with a minus-3 rating over the past three games.

Carter missed the last five regular season games with a bone bruise in his ankle and returned in time for the start of the series. He said the injury didn’t affect his performance.

“It’s been getting better every game, I think, so it’s not a big issue,” Carter said.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter was typically blunt when asked about what he’s seen from Carter lately.

“I think he’s playing through an injury and I think his last game was his best game,” Sutter said. “What are his strengths? His speed and puck skills. When you’re not playing quite 100 percent it does make a difference.”

Carter had a game-high seven shots on goal and four hits in Game 4. He looked as active and visible as he has in the series, and if he shows his scoring capability he will be the factor that Los Angeles wished for when they acquired him before the trade deadline.

“It was probably the best that I’ve felt in this series,” Carter said. “I was skating and getting on pucks. When you’re doing that, you’re creating chances, so it was a step in the right direction.”

Carter had six goals in 16 regular season games since he came to L.A. in a Feb.23 trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who got Jack Johnson and a first round draft pick in return. Outside of a two-goal game against the Anaheim Ducks on March 3, he really hasn’t had a signature game or goal of real significance.

Carter has also been quiet in recent playoffs. He is on a six-game point-less streak, dating to last postseason with Philadelphia.

Richards was also encouraged by Game 5 and knows what his former Philadelphia teammate is capable of doing.

“I talked to him after [Game 4],” Richards said. “He said he felt good. He’s said he it was the best he felt in a long time. Hopefully we can improve on it and get opportunities and chances and shots. He’s got a good enough a shot where the goalie can make the save once in a while but eventually it’s going to go in.”

Mitchell on Vancouver:
Defenseman Willie Mitchell is a knowledgeable source on how to defend the Canucks and he has served as a sort of analyst during the series.

Mitchell played four seasons with Vancouver and against them in the Northwest Division when he was with the Minnesota Wild. He had a detailed take on defending a “new” Canucks team with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

“Everyone has their own way or own belief of how you play them,” Mitchell said. “Personally, I think you deny them the puck, so that means when other players on their team have the puck, you make sure they don’t get it. So [it’s] meeting them before the puck gets there. If they get the puck, it’s not about eliminating time and space, in my opinion, because if you’re too aggressive against them there’s going to be ice open up in the middle of the ice, and that’s where it always goes.

“They make those blind passes and they just know. Their whole game is about creating 2-on-1s, just bringing the guy into you … so it’s a fine line – being aggressive when they don’t have it, and if they happen to get possession, sometimes you got to sit because they’re not Steven Stamkos. They don’t have that world class shot. But they are world-class playmakers.”

Sutter kept beating the drum that Game 4 was his team’s best game of the series and he reiterated that they’re still the underdog even though they have a 3-1 series lead.

He sounded as if he needed a lot more from his team.

“I liked our five-on-five play [in Game 4] but we’re not going to beat the Vancouver Canucks unless everybody plays to their (level) because of the skill set that they have,” Sutter said. “If we have three or four guys that don’t try to play to their skill set then we’re not going to beat them.”

Clifford remains out:
Kyle Clifford (upper body) did not skate for a third consecutive game, which all but rules him out from returning anytime soon.

Clifford was hit by Byron Bitz on Game 1. It is called an upper-body injury but the team is taking the same protocol they would for a concussion.
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 7:34 PM

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

Luongo: I'm 100 percent behind Schneider

VANCOUVER -- Goaltender Roberto Luongo cut through the four-deep crowd gathered around his locker after practice Friday, looked into the glaring row of camera lights and said all the right things.

Meeting the media for the first time since it was announced that he would be on the bench with his team facing elimination in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, the former Canucks' captain threw his support behind replacement Cory Schneider and downplayed talk of his future being somewhere other than Vancouver as premature.

"I'm a competitor, you guys all know that, and it's tough," Luongo said of being benched. "But at the same time, this is about the team and I am not going to put myself ahead of the team. We're in this together, we work hard all year to be in this position and right now I am going to do the best I can to be ready if needed, and 100 percent behind Cory and my teammates."

Luongo never veered off script during his five minutes in the spotlight, saying he hadn't paid any attention to talk the Canucks may need to deal the decade remaining on a 12-year, $64 million contract, which includes a no-trade clause. His insisted his focus is not on the list of teams some are suggesting he could go to, but on a Kings team that Vancouver trails 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

"Right now is not the time to be thinking of that stuff," said Luongo, who played well the first two games, but has watched Schneider stop 62 of 64 shots since starting Game 3.

Luongo, who holds the Canucks franchise record for wins and shutouts, was focused only on getting ready for Game 5 on Sunday. He said he was preparing just in case something should happen to Schneider - the second-year goaltender was forced out of a surprise first-round playoff start last spring after cramping up on a penalty shot -- but not wishing any harm to his crease counterpart.

"We're good friends," Luongo said of Schneider. "He's been behind me 100 percent since Day One he's been here. He works extremely hard in practice, he's always been a great team guy, so I'm going to do the same for him. … I think he deserves what he's getting. Obviously he's going to be a top-notch goalie in this league for a long time. I'm happy for him, and hopefully we can get the job done here."

As for how Luongo is handling the situation, teammates praised him for keeping it out of the locker room. For a goalie once accused of throwing them under the bus by talking about poor defensive play, and a guy who admittedly regrets some comments about Boston's Tim Thomas during last year's Stanley Cup Final, it's a big step.

"Six years ago or five minutes ago?" Luongo responded with a laugh when asked if he has developed thicker skin during his time in Vancouver. "You get to handle things. I think I am much better at it now than when I got here, and I think it's nice that I have been able to take that step and negotiate those things without letting it affect me."

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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 4:19 PM

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

Kings' Clifford still day-to-day

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Kyle Clifford did not skate Friday but Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he the forward did not have a setback in his recovery from what is believed to be a concussion he sustained from a hit by Byron Bitz in Game 1.

"It becomes day-to-day," Sutter said. "That's protocol, right? That's what he's allowed to do."

Also, Scott Parse practiced with the team for the first time since he had hip surgery in December. He wore a green no-contact jersey. Asked if he’s ahead of schedule, Parse said, "I'm just happy how I feel. There's no schedule."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 4:17 PM

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

Kings need power play to get hot again

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Vancouver's inefficient power play was the talk of this first-round playoff series, but the Kings are in a 1 for 15 slump over the past three games. That comes after they went 8-for-17 over the last two regular-season games and Game 1 of this Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

The Kings did have eight shots on goal on its first two power plays of Game 4. It had three total power plays, and that's about what Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter expects.

"We're going to get fewer," Sutter said. "That's obvious, I think. There would have to be something changed for us to get more power plays, so we have to get as many quality chances as you can. I think our power play was better in the last game, but you do have to score on them. One thing that's not going to change in the playoffs is goaltending, special teams and performance of the top players."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 4:13 PM

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

Kings clinging to underdog mindset

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Although his team has a 3-1 series lead, Kings coach Darryl Sutter is keeping his underdog mindset.

Sutter said owning three wins in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Canucks is "the only advantage we have right now. If somebody said at the end of the series we beat them three times [then it doesn't matter]. There's five series of the eight that are 3-1. How many of them are cast as an underdog 3-1? That’s what it's about.

"We are the big underdogs. That's based on what they've accomplished."
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 4:11 PM

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

Sutter knows stopping Sedins is key for Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter faced Vancouver three times in the regular season, but he talked Friday as if he's preparing for a whole new team in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

The addition of Daniel Sedin to Vancouver's lineup has changed the look of the series. Henrik Sedin's game is based on finding brother Daniel for scoring opportunities, and Vancouver essentially got two new players back when Daniel returned for Game 4.

"We got to handle the Sedins better," Sutter said. "They're going to play a lot. As a group, we have to handle them better. It's pretty clear how good a players they are, and they have great instincts when they're together.

"It makes such a difference when they're together. It's clear one impacts the other. It makes sense when you look at it. Their whole career and their whole life is pretty much playing together."

Sutter is not a big matchup coach. In Game 4 he used his top three lines against the Sedin-Sedin-David Booth line, with centers Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll taking turns on the ice against them.

"I don't think he minds who plays against them," Stoll said of Sutter. "He doesn't have a hard matchup kind of a mindset. I'm sure whoever is playing well and doing their thing. The key is winning faceoffs against those guys and making them chase the puck to start their shift. And play the game. Make them play in their zone. Make them play hard minutes.

"They're really good players so they should be different. But we got to be different, too. We got to be better."
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 3:52 PM

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

Booth could join Sedins on Canucks' top line

LOS ANGELES -- David Booth practiced on a line with Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin on Tuesday and if that holds for Game 4 it would be the first time Booth has played with the twins.

The Canucks have tried Booth with Ryan Kesler and it hasn’t really worked because both have to play with the puck. Booth was looking forward to the new combination.

"They're the best two in the League in my opinion, and I think a lot of people say the same thing," Booth said. "It's definitely exciting for me."

The projected lineups for each team:

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

Alexander Edler - Sami Salo
Kevin Bieksa - Dan Hamhuis
Keith Ballard - Chistopher Tanev

Cory Schneider
Roberto Luongo

KINGS
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson - 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 Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 2:55 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Schneider starts for Canucks; Sedin game-time decision

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault announced after the morning skate on Wednesday that Cory Schneider would be the Game 4 goalie for the Canucks. He also said that Daniel Sedin, who is trying to come back from a concussion, will be a game-time decision.

Sedin took part in the morning skate and "looked good," according to Vigneault.

Vancouver announced Monday that Sedin, out for a month, was fit to re-join practicing with the team. Sedin practiced Wednesday and did not commit to playing in Game 4.

"We'll see," he said Tuesday. "We'll take it day-by-day. Today felt good and we'll see how it is tomorrow morning."

There is enormous pressure for Sedin to return. Vancouver trails 3-0 in this best-of-seven series and is on the verge of being eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after claiming the Presidents' Trophy.

Schneider, the young understudy to No. 1 Roberto Luongo will be in the net again. SchneIder played in Game 3 and allowed the only goal in a 1-0 loss that has put the Canucks on the brink of elimination.
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The old saying in hockey is 'weather the storm.' I put the notion in their heads that we don't want to weather the storm, we want to push just as hard and matched their work ethic. I thought our guys exceeded that in the first period.

— Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins after their loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday
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