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:
David Booth – Henrik Sedin – Daniel Sedin
Alexandre Burrows – Ryan Kesler – Maxim Lapierre
Chris Higgins – Samuel Pahlsson – Jannik Hansen
Mason Raymond – Manny Malhotra – Dale Weise
Dan Hamhuis – Kevin Bieksa
Alexander Edler – Sami 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.
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.