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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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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 3:50 PM

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

Kings bracing for possible return of Daniel Sedin

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Teams usually say things don't change much when the opposition gets another player back. But the Los Angeles Kings fully acknowledged the possible addition of Daniel Sedin to the Vancouver Canucks.

"He was an Art Ross [Trophy winner] for scoring," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "Wouldn't that make a significant change if we could put a player like that back in our lineup? It's going to be significant to theirs, too."

Sedin was expected to join Vancouver for practice Tuesday afternoon and it was not yet known if he would play in Game 4 on Wednesday. He has been out for almost a month since he was concussed by Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Sedin's absence is a large reason why Vancouver is facing a 3-0 series deficit in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Brother Henrik Sedin's game is based a lot on finding Daniel, and Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said that has forced other forwards to play out of their roles.

"It's not easy (to adjust)," Sutter said. "I don't know if you counter it, but you certainly make yourself aware and make sure the players are very aware of it and how much better they are together than apart."

Not only was Daniel Sedin the NHL's leading scorer last season, he has a particularly damaging history against the Kings. He had four goals and six assists in a six-game quarterfinals win against L.A. in 2010 and has 33 points in 40 regular season games against the Kings.

"They're tricky to play against," Rob Scuderi said. "No doubt about it. They put the puck in space so well with each other that you have to respect. We don't want to change anything, but it doesn't change the fact that they are hard to play against."

Scuderi and Willie Mitchell have been outstanding in forcing Vancouver to take shots from the perimeter. The Canucks had 41 shots in Game 3 but goalie Jonathan Quick didn't face much from between the circles or slot.
Scuderi said it's difficult defending both Sedins because they can't take away both at the same time.

"You can't do it because then you'd be cheating on your defensive system," he said. "Most likely, you'd be playing man-to-man. I haven't heard any team that's played straight up man-to-man for a while.

"I think the biggest thing is they play the puck with space, not necessarily to each other. They have an uncanny knack for knowing where each other is going to go, and go in space, and they certainly use it to their advantage. They create a lot of space for themselves."

Richardson cleared:
Brad Richardson was cleared to play and skated with the fourth line. Richardson underwent emergency appendectomy surgery last Monday.

"To be honest, I just kind of started (feeling well) the last three or four days," Richardson said. "When I came out I started doing some workouts again and getting on the ice, but for the first three or four days you feel [lousy] because of the anesthesia and you're really sore. As soon as you kind of get over that hump, three or four days, you feel really good. Today I felt the best, and I hope I feel even better tomorrow."

Richardson's return is timely because Kyle Clifford remains out with an upper-body injury. Andrei Loktionov, who filled in for Game 3, took a puck in the foot in the third period of that game and wore a non-contact jersey Tuesday.

Richards knows it can be done:
Mike Richards was part of a Philadelphia Flyers team that became the third team in NHL history to erase a 3-0 series deficit, in 2010 against the Boston Bruins.

Naturally, he knows that it's quite possible for Vancouver to pull it off. He wasn't eager to talk about it, though.

"I'm not going to go over that (2010) series," Richards said. "The situation that we're in, we'll take a step forward is something that I think we have to embrace. Even though they're going to come out hard we have to be ready for what they got, but we have to be ready to bring our game, too."

The Canucks actually have a solid history of erasing 3-1 series deficits, having done it in 1992 against the Winnipeg Jets, 1994 against the Calgary Flames and 2003 against the St. Louis Blues. This is the first time in Kings history they've had a 3-0 lead.

Pressed again how much he appreciates that it's possible, Richards said, "I have to appreciate the position that we're in right now, and not the position they're in."
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 5:26 PM

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

Sedin to practice with Canucks on Tuesday

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Help could be coming for the Vancouver Canucks.

Leading scorer Daniel Sedin will join the team for a full practice Tuesday, the team announced. Sedin hasn't played since he sustained a concussion after being elbowed in the head by Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks on March 21.

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said Monday that he did not know if Sedin will be available for Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Los Angeles on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC). Vancouver is down 3-0 in the series.

"That won't be my decision," Vigneault said. "That's a medical decision. He's been skating now for a quite a few days. They feel that he's progressed real well and he's cleared to practice with the team. We'll have a better indication here in the next couple days."

Vancouver sorely misses Sedin, the NHL's leading scorer last season. It has scored four goals in three losses against L.A. and gone 0-for-14 on the power play. Vigneault is using Jannik Hansen in Sedin's place beside brother Henrik Sedin, but the offense hasn't materialized.

Daniel Sedin was thought to be returning for the start of the series. He skated with the team last week, but was believed to have had a setback. Vigneault wasn't certain Sedin would be available but acknowledged what it would mean.

"Obviously in the situation that we're faced with, for him to be back in our lineup would be a big boost," Vigneault said. "But we don't know so we'll see how it goes in the next little while here."

Vancouver players were upbeat at the news on a sunny off-day at their swanky hotel.

"If he happens to play and he's in the lineup, I assume that he's going to be relied on," Keith Ballard said. "He's going to be put in situations. He's probably going to play a good amount. We will rely on him if he's in the lineup."

Goalie Cory Schneider got a first-hand look at how his team has struggled in a 1-0 loss in Game 3 Sunday.

"Goals are hard to come by," Schneider said. "Getting a 30-goal guy and last year's Art Ross [Trophy] winner definitely couldn't hurt. We're still feeling good. We're not relying on a savior to come in and help us. But to get a player that caliber back would be a big boost for us."

Vigneault did not say whether Schneider would return in net for Game 4.
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Posted On Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 5:24 PM

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

Kings unfazed by goalie change

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The Los Angeles Kings predictably didn’t have much reaction to the fact that they will see Corey Schneider in net Sunday night.

Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault announced Sunday afternoon that he is putting Schneider in for Roberto Luongo, whO played the first two games.

The announcement came fater the Kings morning skate on Sunday.

The Kings said it won’t matter much given that both goalies are fully capable. It likely makes for some more video preparation because Schneider has never played against L.A.

“Now that people are talking about him possibly going in, I’m sure we’ll watch some (film),” Drew Doughty said. “But … any goalie in this League is pretty similar. If you’re not getting traffic in front of him, if he’s seeing every shot on net, he’s going to see it. It’s pretty much the same mindset whether Schneider’s in or Luongo’s in.”

Schneider had the NHL’s second-best save percentage in the regular season (.937). But Luongo hasn’t done much to warrant getting pulled, a sentiment shared by at least one Kings player.

“That would be surprising to me [if they changed goalies],” Willie Mitchell said. “It would be really surprising. To be honest with you, I thought [Luongo’s] been their best player over the first two games of the series.”
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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 Sunday, 04.15.2012 / 12:41 AM

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

Will Canucks go with Luongo or Schneider in Game 3?

VANCOUVER -- Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo stripped off their goaltending equipment side by side in the Canucks locker room after practice Saturday as a large circle of media gathered around them.

It wasn't at all unusual, except this time the crowd formed around Schneider, while Luongo was granted a free path towards the showers.

There is a growing sense the Canucks will do the same in Game 3 on Sunday night.

Cory Schneider
Goalie - VAN
Record: -
GAA: - | Sv%: -
Down 2-0 to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault admitted after practice that he had a decision to make between the pipes. Actually, he'd already made it, but had yet to tell his own goalies, so he wasn't about to share it with the rest of the world.

It won't come as a surprise if it involves a switch, even if Luongo singlehandedly kept the Canucks in Game 1, and made several more big saves in Game 2.

"Maybe give them a new look, shake up the team … I don't know," Schneider said when asked why he might play in L.A., while insisting he didn't know if he would.

There's another reason: Schneider can flat out play goal.
 
The 26-year-old 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 playoff success.

He did get a surprise – many would say shocking – start in the first round last 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 outplaying -- Luongo over the final six weeks of the regular season.

"I would feel pretty comfortable," Schneider said of starting Game 3. "I played in so many games this year and I had a taste of it last year, so I know what to expect. No real surprise for me, just try to play the way I played all year."

Expect, perhaps, while handling the puck.
 
Schneider's stickhandling mistakes didn't end in the Chicago series, and could become an issue against a strong Kings' forecheck Luongo has helped temper with smart, safe plays.

"I have to make smart decisions and put it in position where they are better off than if I hadn't played the puck," Schneider said. "Not try to get too fancy, but just make plays that will put us in position to get out of the zone."

If he plays, it will be Schneider's first game against Los Angeles. And while Luongo had success in the regular season – he had a .944 save percentage in four starts against the Kings – it could be an advantage for the Canucks.

"It can help sometimes if a team doesn't know much about you," Schneider said.

As for Luongo, he said he's seeing the puck well, feels good about the way he's playing, and has always enjoyed playing in the well-lit Staples Center. Despite a lot of talk from teammates about hanging him out to dry with point-blank chances, and poor penalty killing, though, Luongo said he needs to be better.

"You want to come up with the big save when it's needed," Luongo said.

Some might argue he already has made a handful against the Kings. But the question now is whether or not he'll get a chance to make any more.
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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 Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 5:19 PM

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

Five reasons the Canucks are in trouble

It may pain them to do so, but when it comes to inspiration after losing the first two playoff games on home ice, the Vancouver Canucks need look no further than the team that bullied them into submission to win the Stanley Cup in June, the Boston Bruins.

That’s right, Vancouver’s new rival can now be looked upon as a role model, a team that recovered from the same hole the Canucks now find themselves in their Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Kings -- and the Bruins went on to hoist the Cup after falling behind two-zip to Montreal.

Boston also dropped the first two in the Final in Vancouver before winning four of the last five. Of course they also proved to be a better team than the Canucks in that Final.

Maybe that explains why players looked elsewhere for inspiration.

“We are not going to do everything the same way as last year, cruise to the Stanley Cup Final,” defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. “We are going to make it interesting. Last year we were up three against Chicago and then we let them come back. This year we will spot them a couple and see what happens.”

Vancouver nearly blew that 3-0 lead over the Blackhawks in the first round before needing overtime in Game 7 to advance, eventually to the Final.

Coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t interested in history, however.

“I’m not going to give you a rundown of all the teams that have come back in the past and da-de-da because that would be standing up here and trying to be real positive,” he said. “Reality is we’re down by two and we got to win [Game 3 on Sunday]. That's it. All the other stuff doesn't matter.”

Maybe that’s because a lot of that other stuff doesn’t bode well for a Canucks team facing at least five good reasons it will be tough to secure four more wins:

1) THE NHL’s WORST BEST POWER PLAY: There will be no shortage of talk about the ongoing absence of leading goal scorer Daniel Sedin, who did not travel with the team to Los Angeles on Saturday. But the reality is Vancouver’s power play problems started long before Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith concussed the Canucks’ leading goal scorer and last year’s NHL scoring champion Sedin with an elbow on March 21. On top of the League by a wide margin through early January, the Canucks slump started almost immediately after going 4-for-11 to win the Cup rematch in Boston on Jan. 7. They finished fourth in the NHL, but are just 10-for-130 since, a 12.3 per cent success rate that ranks well below the worst power play in the League.

In addition to being 0-for-10 through two games against Los Angeles, they gave up two shorthanded goals to the Kings in Game 2. Despite not having Daniel Sedin the last nine games of the regular season, the Canucks were still experimenting with new combinations at practice Saturday, and a lack of cohesion that cost them the night before.

“We can’t expect to score every time but we’ve got to gain some momentum for us and we did the opposite,” Captain Henrik Sedin said.

2) TOUGH TO PUSH AND BE PATIENT:
Vancouver’s lack of scoring against the Kings extends beyond the power play, and even this series. Since Darryl Sutter took over as the coach in Los Angeles mid-season, the Canucks are just 1-3-1 and have only managed to score eight goals in those five games. Further complicating things is the Kings’ stifling style, which can punish impatience if you try to force things, and create odd-man rushes the other way.

“They're a very stingy team, they don’t give up a lot so it's very important to stick to our game plan and not try to overdo things and when the opportunities arise make sure we try to capitalize,” forward Manny Malhotra said.

It may be easier to say than do, especially if they fall behind in Game 3.

3) KINGS BETTER THAN AN EIGHT SEED: For all the focus on the Kings’ above-mentioned defensive play, the discussion about their offense has been largely misdirected. It centered largely on finishing 29th in goals this season, and not on averaging more than three a game after acquiring Jeff Carter in a pre-deadline blockbuster. That’s more than half a goal better per game than the Canucks over that same stretch, and despite stereotypes the Kings sit back and defend, they have become much more aggressive under Sutter, with a lot more puck possession and a forecheck that is causing the Canucks defense fits.

"I'm sure people aren't going to be expecting us to score goals but I know in here we all think differently," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said.

4) TWO NOT BETTER THAN NO.1 IN GOAL: Vigneault wouldn’t confirm it until he told the goaltenders themselves, but there is growing speculation the Canucks could change things up between the pipes, with impressive second-year backup Cory Schneider taking over for Roberto Luongo in Game 3. Schneider finished second in the NHL with a .937 save percentage, and despite the fact Luongo has actually been very good the first two games, especially Game 1, there is a sense the Canucks may not want to try that change before it is too late.

“We haven't given him a lot of help on a lot of these goals and kind of hanging him out to dry on a few of them,” Schneider said of Luongo. “It's not my decision. Maybe give the team a new look, shake up the team.”

It won’t matter if neither goalie can best Kings’ crease counterpart Jonathan Quick, who made 46 saves in Game 2 and is coming off a Vezina Trophy-worthy regular season.

“Give him credit, he was real good,” Vigneault said.

5) ROAD RECORD WON’T MEAN MUCH IN L.A.: Vancouver had the best road record in the Western Conference at 24-12-5 in the regular season, and finished second only to Philadelphia in the entire NHL. The Kings were just ninth in the West and 19th in the League at home at 22-14-5. But with Game 3 just hours after the Lakers play at Staples Center on Sunday, the ice could be soft, and the speed advantage the Canucks forwards were supposed to enjoy in this series – and it has been evident at times -- will be largely negated.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 3:28 PM

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

D. Sedin out for Game 3, status unchanged

Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin will not travel to Los Angeles with the team for Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday night.

"He's not flying with us today and nothing has changed," coach Alain Vigneault said after practice Saturday.

Vigneault would not confirm a report on Twitter from earlier in the day that Sedin, out since March 21, would not play the rest of the first-round series.

"There's no timeline in these injuries," Vigneault said. "I can't tell you more than he's not skating with the team and he's not coming to LA."

The Canucks trail the Kings two games to none in the best-of-seven series and miss their leading goal scorer, especially on the power play. Vancouver is 0-for-10 with the man advantage without Sedin, and gave up two shorthanded goals in a second straight 4-2 loss in Game 2 on Friday night.

Daniel Sedin skated on his own -- in full gear but at a light pace -- an hour before the rest of the Canucks regulars took the ice for the morning skate Friday. It was the third time he's been on the ice this week, but there was no indication he was any closer to a return. Vigneault bristled when asked to compare Sedin's health since Monday.

"How would you compare the sun today to the sun a couple of days ago? How am I supposed to answer that question?" he responded. "Nothing's changed guys. I can't tell you anything more."

Sedin, who hasn't played since Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith elbowed him in the head with 10 games left in the regular season, skated at least once on his own before rejoining the team at practice on Monday.

The 2011 Art Ross Trophy winner took his regular spot on the first line and top power play unit with twin brother Henrik Sedin, and even stayed through a long conditioning skate at the end of practice. But he didn't come out with the team the following day, instead going out after practice on Tuesday with the extra players.

There was a report from a Swedish media outlet the following day, citing an interview with the Sedin's father, that Daniel experienced headaches after the Monday session and wouldn't play Game 1. He didn't and, despite the short skate prior to Game 2, still wasn't ready on Friday night, when the Canucks' power play he helps anchor went 0-for-5 and gave up two shorthanded goals in a 4-2 loss that left the Canucks down two games in the series.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 6:04 PM

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

Canucks will let their play speak for them

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks are pledging to let their play do the talking the rest of the Western Conference Quarterfinals after admitting their mouths got too involved during a Game 1 loss to Los Angeles.

Vancouver engaged in a lot of post-whistle activity in the series opener on Wednesday night, spending so much time trying to get the Kings off their game that it took away from theirs instead. It was uncharacteristic of a team that preached discipline and a whistle-to-whistle focus all season -- and looked more like the one that lost track of both en route to a loss in the Stanley Cup Final against Boston last year.

"We need to stay away from it," Ryan Kesler said. "We haven't been doing it as much all year and with the excitement of playoffs we got caught up a little too much in it. We need to stick to our game plan, which is whistle to whistle."

Kesler was in the middle of a lot of it with Game 1 hero Mike Richards, who had a goal and two assists in the 4-2 win. While Kesler's two assists represented his first multi-point game since Dec. 26, the focus after was more on his post-whistle antics, the snow shower on Kings goalie Jonathan Quick that started a run of three straight penalties, and a couple of apparent embellishments.

Coach Alain Vigneault hinted while talking with reporters on Thursday that it would be discussed before Game 2. It sounded Friday morning like Kesler got the message.

"When the excitement of playoffs is here, and the real season starts you're going to try get any advantage," Kesler said, "But we got caught up in it."

The Canucks also got caught up trying to be a bit too physical, which led to some of the Kings' eight power plays -- and two power-play goals. But Vigneault and Kesler both warned they couldn't back off too much.

"We're going to keep hitting," Kesler said. "We can't play soft. We can't play timid. We'll kill penalties like that. It's the other ones we have to stay away from."

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 5:42 PM

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

Keith Ballard set for return

VANCOUVER -- With all the attention on leading scorer Daniel Sedin's attempts to return from a concussion, Canucks defenseman Keith Ballard has been able to fly slightly under the radar in his own recovery from a head injury.

Not anymore.

"I guess you get thrown in the fire and see how you do," Ballard said after taking the morning skate on Friday in preparation to play Game 2 against the Kings.

It's a big ask of Ballard, who hasn't played in more than two months since coming out of the lineup Feb. 7. He was shut down completely for several weeks during that time after experiencing dizziness and headaches -- and sometimes sleeping 16 to 18 hours a day. But he's been skating since mid-March, rejoined the team later in the month and feels he's as ready as he can be to return.

"I know it's going to be fast, it's going to be intense and I'm ready for that," Ballard said. "From my perspective I've done everything I could physically and mentally to prepare so I go from there. My legs feel great. My skating feels great. It's just a matter of putting it all together. It's not psyching yourself up, the building and the atmosphere and what's at stake gets you emotionally ready. It's the mental part that is a huge part of hit, getting your mindset right."

Ballard has battled the mental side since coming to the Canucks two summers ago. He never became the top-pair defenseman Vancouver touted when they traded Michael Grabner and a first-round pick to Florida as part of a five-player package to acquire him on the eve of the 2010 NHL Draft. But he remains a great skater, and after struggling to recover from offseason hip surgery and another concussion last season was playing well before getting hurt in February.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault hopes his ability to skate the puck out his own end pays off against a Kings forecheck that pinned them in the Vancouver zone several times.

"Skate and move the puck, make smart decisions and a bit of a physical side, that's the strength of my game so that's what I gave to do," Ballard said. "If I play to my capabilities, I definitely think I can make a positive impact."

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:57 PM

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

Canucks' Ebbett eager to offer versalitity, stay healthy

Vancouver Canucks forward Andrew Ebbett couldn't help but cringe a little when he watched Washington star Alexander Ovechkin collide with Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg while watching the playoffs on television Thursday night.

It was eerily similar to his impact with the sturdy Bruins blueliner on Jan. 7, a ferocious hit that broke Ebbett’s collarbone badly in two places.

So seeing a similarly explosive collision on the eve of making his own playoff debut brought back memories for Ebbett, who will replace the suspended Byron Bitz for Game 2 against the Los Angeles Kings on Friday night.

“It definitely reminded me of the hit for sure, just seeing the impact these two had,” Ebbett said. “It brings back memories from when he hit me.”

Ebbett still has a four-inch plate and nine screws in his shoulder and a jagged scar across the front of his collarbone from two fractures the surgeon in Boston called the worst he’d seen. So the fact he’s back for the playoffs after working to return for the final four games of the regular season, means that much more.

“I had doubts the first two weeks when I was in bed and on the couch but once I got here and in the gym and talking to doctors and trainer we knew this was our goal and it's nice to achieve it,” Ebbett said.

Ebbett will take the place of Bitz, who received a two-game suspension for driving Kyle Clifford face first into the boards in Game 1, on the fourth line. But the versatile Ebbett could also see some second unit power-play time, and with five goals in just 18 games this season, adds another scoring touch.

More than anything, he’s just happy to be back after a regular season that also included missing more than a month after breaking his foot while blocking a shot against the Kings on Nov. 10, a game in which he also scored.

“It's been a long year, it’s been a little frustrating at times, but those three months of working the gym and rehabbing, this is what I’ve been working for to get back to here,” he said. “I’m going to play as well as I can to hopefully stay in.”

And stay healthy for a change.

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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 4:00 PM

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

Sutter still wants more from Kings' Penner

Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter didn't sound overly impressed with Dustin Penner, who scored the winner late in Game 1 against the Canucks on Wednesday.

So the chances of Penner being back up on the second line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to start Game 2 of Western Conference Quarterfinals on Friday night may be slim. Penner’s promotion had more to do with a rotation that started when forward Kyle Clifford was knocked out of the game, so don’t be surprised if rookie Dwight King is there with Penner back on the third line.

Sutter made it clear he needs more from the big, enigmatic Penner.

“He can be a whole lot better for all three periods,” Sutter said of Penner, who only scored seven goals in the regular season. “We’re talking about him because he scored one goal. If it’s just about scoring I don’t think we’re going to beat this team 5-4 or 6-5. You have to be very good 200 feet, everywhere on the ice.”

Sutter did confirm forward Andrei Loktionov, who was called up from the American Hockey League when Brad Richardson needed an appendectomy Monday, would go in for Clifford. Clifford didn't play after having his head driven into the boards by Byron Bitz in Game 1. Bitz was given a two-game suspension Thursday.

“He’s pretty familiar with everything he needs to do," Sutter said of Loktionov, who played 39 games with the Kings this season, but will be making his NHL playoff debut. "He's pretty familiar with the players. The players are pretty familiar with him. He's pretty familiar with the system. He gives us some versatility.”

With the Canucks making changes in their lineup – Andrew Ebbett in for Bitz and defenseman Keith Ballard returning after missing two months with a concussion – and talking about needing to improve their discipline, their battle level and their power play, Sutter was asked what the Kings need to adjust.
 
Los Angeles outshot Vancouver 39-26 in Game 1, including a decisive 29-14 edge through 40 minutes, so maybe there’s not much to change.
 
“They don’t give up many opportunities five-on-five so you gotta to finish,” Sutter said. “I don't think you coach that. If you are creating your opportunities, you worked for your opportunities so the next part is reward your work.”

Here are the rest of the expected lines for the Kings in Game 2:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Andrei Loktionov - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan
 
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez
 
Jonathan Quick is back in goal, with Jonathan Bernier backing up.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 2:54 PM

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

Canucks make changes for Game 2, but D. Sedin unlikely

Daniel Sedin skated on his own an hour before the rest of the Canucks, but there was no update on his condition or possible return from a concussion for Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals series against Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

It seems unlikely that the Canucks get their leading goal scorer back, but they will have one player return from a concussion as they try an even the best-of-seven first round series against the Kings.

Keith Ballard, out since Feb. 7, will make his playoff debut in the hopes his ability to skate the puck out of trouble helps negate a Kings’ forecheck that had Vancouver pinned in its own end for prolonged periods. Aaron Rome appears to be the odd-man out on the back end based on the morning skate, with the Canucks expected to go back to the top-four pairings from last playoffs.

The Canucks will also use versatile forward Andrew Ebbett in place of Byron Bitz, who was suspended two games for the hit that knocked Los Angeles forward Kyle Clifford face first into the boards and out for at least Game 2, if not longer.

Ebbett, who will play on the fourth line at even strength, has also worked on the second unit power play and could help after the Canucks went 0-for-5 with the man advantage in s 4-2 loss Wednesday to the Kings.

Coach Alain Vigneault didn’t confirm it after the morning skate, but there’s also a good chance he switches up his top-six forward mix, dropping the ineffective Mason Raymond out of Daniel Sedin’s spot alongside Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows. Maxim Lapierre, who is normally an agitating fourth-line center, had three goals and five points in four games on the top line, but started the playoffs on a struggling second unit with Ryan Kesler and David Booth.

Here is the projected lineup for the Canucks in Game 2:
 
Maxim LapierreHenrik SedinAlexandre Burrows
Mason RaymondRyan KeslerDavid Booth
Chris HigginsSamuel PahlssonJannik Hansen
Manny MalhotraAndrew EbbettZack Kassian
 
Dan HamhuisKevin Bieksa
Alexander EdlerSami Salo
Keith Ballard – Chris Tanev
 
Roberto Luongo is back in goal, with Cory Schneider backing up.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 8:39 PM

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

Kings apologize for post-game tweet

The Los Angeles Kings were all a-Twitter on Thursday.

Unfortunately it had less to do with their Game 1 victory in Vancouver the night before, and more to do with a line that went out on the popular social media network afterwards.

Sent from the team's official Twitter account, @LAKings, shortly after the 4-2 win, it read: "To Everyone in Canada outside of BC, you're welcome," a reference to the Canucks perceived status as one of hockey's most hated teams.

The Kings quickly apologized Thursday morning.

"We encourage our digital team to be creative, interactive and to apply a sense of humor whenever possible," Mike Altieri, the Kings vice president of communications and broadcasting, said in a statement. "To anyone who found it offensive, we sincerely apologize."

Vancouver players dismissed it, saying they are used to the wearing the black hat ever since last year's run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final cast them in the villain's role -- even in Canada.

"You laugh about it a bit, but we're used to it," backup goalie Cory Schneider said. "Everyone's kinda doing that stuff to us, so it doesn't really bother us a whole lot. We have bigger, more important things to worry about than what their team is putting on Twitter."

Los Angeles players and coach Darryl Sutter also dismissed it for the most part, stressing that it didn't come from anyone in the locker room.

"It's irrelevant to the guys in the room," captain Dustin Brown said. "As players we're all smart enough to know bulletin board material at this time of the year is not a good idea and as players we all understand that. Maybe someone who is control of the Twitter feed needs to understand that as well."

As for perceptions of the Canucks, Brown said it should be considered a compliment.

"When you've been the best team the last two years, you automatically get the role of the most hated team," Brown said. "I mean you look at other sports, you look at the Yankees who have dominated baseball on and off, they are probably the most hated team in baseball. That goes with the territory of being the best."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 8:31 PM

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

Bitz accepts responsibility for suspension

VANCOUVER -- Canucks forward Byron Bitz accepted responsibility for the dangerous hit that knocked both him and Los Angeles Kings forward Kyle Clifford out of Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series on Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-5 Canucks forward will have more time to think about after Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's Vice President of Player Safety, announced late Thursday that Bitz was suspended for two games for the dangerous hit.

"I don't feel very good about it," Bitz said before a phone hearing with Shanahan.

Clifford had his back to Bitz, who was skating along the goal line before planting his shoulder into the Kings' forward, driving his face hard into the boards. Bitz received a five-minute major for boarding, during which the Kings scored a goal, and a game misconduct. Clifford returned the bench during the ensuing power play but never got back on the ice and didn't return for the third period.

"I had no intention of targeting the head or injuring anybody," said Bitz, who has not been disciplined before. "That's not the way I play. It was an unfortunate play. The referees made the call and it cost our team a goal. It's my fault."

Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said Clifford wouldn't play Game 2 on Friday.

"You guys know the old standard, 'upper-body injury,' and he's out," Sutter said.

"I don't want to not tell the truth. I'll just leave it at that"

As for who might take Clifford's place in the lineup with Brad Richardson already out after an appendectomy Monday, Sutter only joked he was, "talking to Bernie Nichols about it, but he doesn't know if he's quite game ready."

The candidates include big wing Kevin Westgarth and smaller center Andrei Loktionov, a top prospect who was sent down to the AHL in February because there was no room behind Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser.

"I have to be ready," Loktionov, a Russian, said in choppy English of possibly playing his first playoff game. "It's so much quickly than in season, everyone try to hit you. I have to keep my head up and keep move my feet. It's different."

The Canucks also have options to replace Bitz, including Dale Weise, who plays a similar physical role, and Andrew Ebbett, an undersized center who can also help on the second unit of a power play that was 0-for-5 in Game 1.

"I'd be kidding if I'd say we don't need the power play," coach Alain Vigneault said. "You need that as a weapon to make sure the other team stays honest on the ice and obviously our power play needs to be better. We have the personnel for it to be good. Right now they need to execute better."

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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 / 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 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 / 5:14 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Canucks vs. Kings series blog

Canucks gained experience from last season's run

The sting of a seven-game series loss in the Stanley Cup Final last spring isn't really on the mind of Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler as his team prepares for its opening-round series against the Los Angeles Kings this week.

And the reason is simple -- experience.

"Obviously, we have most of the same guys back and we fell one game short last year and that was hard, but we know what it takes, so we're amped up and ready to go," Kesler told the media during a conference call on Monday. "What did we learn from last year? I think experience comes to mind … the experience of going through something like that and knowing what it takes."

Fact is, Vancouver has 19 players on the roster that played a part in last year's Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins. Additionally, Samuel Pahlsson played a big role in the Anaheim Ducks' championship run back in 2007. Pahlsson was traded by the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Canucks in February.

After winning the Presidents' Trophy for the second straight season, the Canucks will once again get home-ice advantage for however long they last in the playoffs. Can they reach the top of the mountain this year?

"I think we're going to figure that out in the next couple of months, but we know, as a team, we'll be judged on how we do in the playoffs, so now the real season begins," Kesler said. "It'll be a good test, for sure."

Vancouver finished the season with a seven-game home winning streak on the way to a 27-10-4 record at Rogers Arena. The club will play the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round for the second time in three years -- in 2010, the Canucks triumphed in six games. The teams split the four-game season series this season.
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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 Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM

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

Canucks, Kings set to open series Wednesday

After clinching their second Presidents' Trophy in as many seasons, the Canucks will begin their quest for the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Wednesday night when they open their first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings.

Vancouver and L.A. are set to drop the puck in Game 1 at 10:30 ET. The game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network in the U.S. and CBC in Canada.
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Quote of the Day

It's a little different but it feels amazing. A new chapter in my life and I'm excited. It's been amazing. Better than I expected. The weather is great, the place is just amazing. I can't say enough good things about it. I'm glad to get the season going.

— Ryan Kesler on his transition to the Anaheim Ducks