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."