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Canucks vs. Kings blog
Dave Lozo takes you behind the scenes and keeps you up to speed on everything this 3-6 matchup has to offer.
Canucks expect push; Kings shuffle deck
4.25.2010 / 4:15 PM ET

They say no news is good news, and for the first time this series, there isn't any coming out of the Canucks on the morning before Game 6.

No lineup changes, no line shuffling, no nothing. Just the knowledge that with the Los Angeles Kings facing elimination Sunday night at Staples Center, the Canucks are expecting a battle, not a blowout repeat from Game 5.

"The start's going to be big tonight," said Henrik Sedin, who has a goal and four assists in the last four periods. "They're going to come back a lot harder. They know they're facing elimination here. We need to put our best game on the ice."

And as Josh Brewster reported Saturday, Kings coach Terry Murray gave no consideration to calling up goaltender Jonathan Bernier to replace Jonathan Quick for Game 6.

"Quick's the goaltender that's playing (Sunday)," Murray insisted. "He's our guy. He's the guy that has done a great job for us all year long, he's rebounded from tough starts, difficult losses over the course of the year."

He will shuffle his lines for Game 6, though. The top line will stay the same, but Justin Williams will play on the fourth line with Scott Parse (or Raitis Ivanans) and Jeff Halpern. The second line will consist of Fredrik Modin, Dustin Brown and Michal Handzus, and the third line is Jarret Stoll, Alexander Frolov and Brad Richardson.

Game 6 will be an "early" 9 p.m. start in the Eastern time zone.

-- Dave Lozo


Canucks call up defenseman

4.24.2010 / 4:15 PM ET

With Nolan Baumgartner and Aaron Rome banged up, the Vancouver Canucks have called up defenseman Lawrence Nycholat to give the team some depth.

The 30-year-old Nycholat has played 37 games with the AHL Manitoba Moose this season and racked up 22 points, including five goals. In 50 career NHL games, he has 2 goals and 7 assists.

-- Dave Lozo


Williams back for Kings

4.23.2010 / 2:30 PM ET

Justin Williams, a healthy scratch since Game 1, will return to the Kings lineup for tonight's pivotal Game 5.

He will likely play on a line with Michal Handzus and Fredrik Modin. Jarrett Stoll was dropped the fourth line, as Kings coach Terry Murray has shuffled the deck with everything except his top line.

"I changed things a little bit here to get some different looks," he said. "(Williams) is a player that's been to the playoffs and won a Stanley Cup and this is a time in Game 5 I need the experience and I also know he's very capable of putting the puck in the net. He's a creative guy, he can score goals, he can fit with different lines, we can use him on special teams situations. I'm looking for a big game for him."

-- Dave Lozo


Canucks lines for Game 5

4.23.2010 / 2:30 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- There's not much new to report from the Canucks practice this morning at GM Place. It looks as though Mikael Samuelsson will stay with the Sedins and Alex Burrows will play on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond. Pavol Demitra will play with Kyle Wellwood and Steve Berner. Tanner Glass and Matt Pettinger appear to be the healthy scratches up front.

The Kings will take the ice in the next couple minutes.

-- Dave Lozo


Alberts returning to lineup

4.22.2010 / 6:30 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Andrew Alberts is getting another chance.

The Canucks' defenseman who was benched after piling up 23 penalty minutes in the first two games of this series will replace the injured Nolan Baumgartner for Game 5 on Friday night.

Baumgartner, who was in the lineup for an injured Aaron Rome, who was in the lineup for an ieffective Alberts, suffered an undisclosed injury during Wednesday's 6-4 win against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of their series.

Alberts didn't want to go so far as to say he's getting a shot at redemption, but he's getting a Sam Beckett/Quantum Leap chance to put right what once went wrong.

"I obviously want to go in and truly belong," Alberts said. "I want to get back to the way I was playing the five games before the playoffs started.

"It's never fun sitting out. It's back to 2-2, so it's a three-game series, so it's good to be back." Alberts said the wants to, "Get out there, get a hit in right away, make smart plays and we'll go from there."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault expressed confidence in Alberts, but he also pointed out that he's down to six defensemen, so there's not many options at this point.

"His teammates believe in him. Coaches believe in him and I'm confident the great fans of Vancouver are also going to believe in him," Vigneault said. "He is what he is. He's a big guy that can play a good defensive game and physical. We need to make sure that physicality is the right type. We're going to support him, his teammates are going to support him, fans are going to support him also. Because right now, we're down to six."

*************

The Canucks didn't skate at GM Place on Thursday. Insteady they worked out and talked with the media afterward. Here were some of the more noteworthy comments from the players and Vigneault:

Alex Burrows on the penalty killing: "We killed the last two, so that was good. But at the same time, we got to do better. We know that."

Henrik Sedin on the penalty killing: "It's tough when you let up goals pretty much every PK. They get a lot of confidence. They know they can play even tighter 5-on-5 because they know they're going to score goals on their power play."

Roberto Luongo on momentum: "That's the way it goes in the playoffs. You win, you feel like you have it, you lose, you feel like you don't. At the end of the day, we're tied at two, and tomorrow's a game we have to win."

Alain Vigneault on Burrows, who has yet to score this series: "I think Alex can play better than what he has right now. For whatever reason, he had tons of chances in the first two games here where he didn't finish. He's the first unit on the penalty killing, so I think he might've lost a bit of his swagger. We talked about it briefly this morning before getting on the bus in L.A. Alex, in my mind, has always been real good in those pressure situations. He can handle the pressure, he can handle the moment, and he needs to do that for us because we need him badly."

Vigneault on the brawl at the end of Game 4: "We haven't talked about it much. It's an emotional game. We're big boys and we've got little boys in front of us, and boys will be boys sometimes."

-- Dave Lozo

Harrold out; Jones back in

4.21.2010 / 5:30 PM ET

Randy Jones, who sat Games 2 and 3, will return to the lineup in place of Peter Harrold, who will miss Game 4 with an undisclosed injury after missing the entire third period of Game 3.

Jones found himself on the bench when his turnover during overtime of Game 1 led to Mikael Samuelsson's goal that gave the Canucks a 3-2 victory.

"I have an experienced player going in, in Randy Jones. He's been in this situation many times," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "He was taken out for reasons that I did speak to him about and I think he got the message and I'll get him back and get him going."

-- Dave Lozo


Baumgartner gets his turn on 'D'

4.21.2010 / 3:00 PM ET

LOS ANGELES -- Coach Alain Vigneault's wheel of sixth defensemen was given another spin Wednesday, and this time it's landed on Nolan Baumgartner.

Andrew Alberts was benched after his penalty minute extravaganza over the first two games, then Aaron Rome suffered an injury near the end of Game 3. That opened the door for Baumgartner, who will be playing in his first postseason game since 2003 when he suits up for Wednesday night's Game 4 against the Kings.

"It's going to feel good to get out there. I'm excited," said Baumgartner, who hasn't seen game action since April 11. Its' playoff hockey and I'm looking forward to it.

"I'm not nervous at all. Just another game ramped up a little bit. I'm ready to go."

The 34-year-old has amassed 7 goals and 40 assists in 143 games during his career. His best season by far was with the Canucks in 2005-06 when he 5 goals and 29 assists in 70 games.

"I just felt that Baumer gives us a good puck-moving defenseman and we'll see how he handles it tonight," Vigneault said.

*************

The last thing anyone is worried about is how Roberto Luongo will bounce back after he was pulled midway through Game 3, when he allowed four goals on 16 shots.

Luongo was removed from a game against the New York Islanders on March 16 after giving up four goals on just 12 shots. He responded two nights later by making 32 saves in the Canucks' 3-2 win against San Jose. On March 5, the Blackhawks sent Luongo to the bench after blitzing him for five goals in the first period. He made 33 saves two nights later in a 4-2 win in Nashville.

"We don't have any doubt that he will bounce back," said Mikael Samuelsson.

When asked if he had confidence that Luongo will be ready for Game 4, Vigneault simply said, "Without a doubt."

Luongo shares their confidence in himself, but he was borderline offended at the question.

"I've done it a handful of times over the last month, so no worries there, buds," he said.

-- Dave Lozo


Rome day-to-day; Alberts back in?

4.20.2010 / 5:00 PM ET

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Rome wasn't built in a day, but Aaron Rome is once again day-to-day.

That might mean that Andrew Alberts could be coming to a penalty box near you.

Alberts had 23 PIMs in the Canucks' first two games of their opening-round series with the L.A. Kings, by far the most in the League. It resulted in him being a healthy scratch for Monday's Game 3, but there's a chance he could be back in the lineup for Wednesday's Game 4.

Rome was shaken up during the third period of Game 3 and is being called "day-to-day" by coach Alain Vigneault. Rome took part in the team's optional skate Tuesday at Toyota Sports Center.

But if he can't go, Vigneault would likely turn to Alberts, who will need to adjust his game if he wants to make it a permanent switch.

"He's gotta stay out of the box," Vigneault said. "Some of his penalties were obviously not necessary. If he stays out of the box, he'll be all right.

"Andrew is a big guy who is skating is all right, but he's gotta be in good position. He can't go looking for hits. They have to be there. And when they're there, then he can do what he needs to do."

The Kings are schedule to take the ice here at Toyota Sports Center at 4 p.m. PT.

-- Dave Lozo

Vigneault shakes things up

4.19.2010 / 3:30 PM ET

LOS ANGELES -- Kings coach Terry Murray made several lineup changes before Game 2. Now Canucks coach Alain Vigneault is the one shaking things up.

While he refused to make anything official after his team's morning skate at Staples Center on Monday, Vigneault will likely shuffle his lines for Game 3 of this Western Conference Quarterfinal series. The biggest move would be the demotion of Pavol Demitra to the fourth line and the promotion of Mason Raymond to the second line.

"I'm not going to discuss my possible lineup changes," Vigneault said, "but if you were to speculate that it might give us maybe a little bit better balance on the road, you might look smart.

"Pavol is an experienced veteran player that has been in these moments before. He has a great skill set and he needs to play up to his potential."

 
"I feel comfortable playing with (Demitra), I feel comfortable playing with (Kesler)," Raymond said. "Things are subject to change. I'm looking forward to it."
 
The top line of Alex Burrows-Henrik Sedin-Daniel Sedin remains intact, but the bottom three lines will all have different looks. The second unit will be Mikael Samuelsson-Ryan Kesler-Raymond, the third line will be Michael Grabner-Kyle Wellwood-Steve Bernier, and the fourth line will be Jannik Hansen, Demitra and Tanner Glass, who will take the spot of Rick Rypien.

Another potential change could take place along the blue line. Andrew Alberts has been a penalty machine during the first two games, piling up 23 PIMs and leaving his team shorthanded five times. Aaron Rome, who has been out with an undisclosed injury, practiced again Monday and could take his place in the lineup.

"I'm close, things are feeling better everyday," Rome said. So we'll see come gametime."

-- Dave Lozo


Murray benches Williams, Jones

4.17.2010 / 3:45 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Kings coach Terry Murray made a big move Saturday morning, announcing he was benching first-line right wing Justin Williams along with defenseman Randy Jones and fourth-liner Raitis Ivanans.

Into the lineup goes Scott Parse, Rich Clune and Peter Harrold. It's a pretty drastic shakeup for a team that was one ridiculous Roberto Luongo save away from a win in Game 1.

Murray said he hasn't been happy with the consistency of Williams since he returned from a broken leg that cost him 28 games this season. And Jones was on the ice for Mikael Samuelsson's OT winner in Game 1.

Here is Murray's explanation on the moves:

"The reasoning applies to Jones and Justin Williams. We need them to have a bigger bite in the game. Both players are veteran guys. We added players such as Williams and Jones to be important players at this time of year. On the Williams side of it, unfortunately, with his severe leg injury, he's worked very hard to get himself back to the level of game that he was playing before the injury. There have been games where I've seen that play, but it's just not there right now.

"It's a very drastic move, I know. It's a hard move for a coach to make. It's one of the hardest things you do as a coach, to take a veteran player out of the lineup and try to get the player to understand why. But it's Game 2. Right now it's about winning the game, it's not about the feelings. I'm trying to do the right thing to help the Los Angeles Kings win this second game."

The biggest beneficiary of the moves is Wayne Simmonds, who will be moved to the top line.

*************

On the Canucks side, coach Alain Vigneault was less forthcoming. But it looks like Michael Grabner will take the place of Matt Pettinger on the fourth line. Pettinger was on the ice for the Kings' second power-play goal in Game 1, and it was the last time he saw the ice for the rest of the game.

-- Dave Lozo


Even strength key to getting even

4.16.2010 / 6:45 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- The Kings scored two goals in their Game 1 loss to the Canucks, both of which came on the power play. They were outscored at even strength 2-0, and the Kings know they have to play better at 5-on-5 if they want to go back to Los Angeles tied in this series.

"We have to get our forecheck going," said Kings forward Anze Kopitar. "It's a big part of the five-on-five game. We certainly have to address that and try to be better in that part tomorrow."

Defenseman Sean O'Donnell said the key to the Kings' success is cycling the puck in the Canucks zone. It's simple logic, but if the Kings have the puck, the Canucks don't.

"In the five-on-five, our big thing is we want to have zone time," O'Donnell said. "We feel like if we can play in there, we have a good cycling team, try and wear down the defense. The important thing is when you're cycling down there, you're not giving them any chances. The longer the puck's in their end the chances of you scoring are a lot better. We need to get back to that. That's kind of our bread and butter and we got away from it a little bit last night."

*************

Canucks defenseman Andrew Alberts had his say Friday morning about his hit on Kings forward Brad Richardson (scroll down), and Richardson offered his assessment later in the day.

"I did turn for sure, but I felt like he kind of took a run at me with his elbows up high," said Richardson, who was sporting five stitches above his right eyebrow because of the hit. "I obviously can't protect myself there, I'm watching the puck. I saw a replay. It's not a clean hit and I think it was the right call."

-- Dave Lozo


Salo gets 'maintenance day;' Alberts discusses hit

4.16.2010 / 4:10 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Canucks defenseman Sami Salo, who was in and out of the lineup at the end of the regular season for varying reasons, wasn't on the ice for practice Friday morning at GM Place. Coach Alain Vigneault said it wasn't injury- or illness-related and it was just a "maintenance day" for the 35-year-old veteran.

Salo had an assist in the Canucks' 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Los Angeles Kings. He logged 21:24 of ice time in the game.

Fellow defenseman Aaron Rome was back at practice after missing time with an undisclosed injury. Vigneault also wasn't disclosing what role Rome would have, if any, in Game 2 on Saturday.

*************

It was a frustrating Game 1 for Canucks defenseman Andrew Alberts. The Kings scored both of their goals on the power play after Alberts' penalties. His interference penalty at the end of the first period led to Jarret Stoll's goal early in the second period, and his major penalty for boarding against Brad Richardson resulted in a goal by Fredrik Modin.

Alberts talked Friday about the major penalty that resulted in his ejection.

"It wasn't intentional," he said. "I was playing physical. Two bodies colliding at the same time. He turned at the last second. That's how it goes.

"I saw a replay a quickly, I haven't sat down and watched it. I thought we just arrived at the same time. If you turn back at the last second there's nothing I can do if I'm committed to the hit. It's the way it's called and let's move on."

Alberts hasn't heard anything from the League about a possible suspension or fine. He also said about the game misconduct:  "I didn't think I deserved that. Again, it's not my call. It's what the officials saw."

Asked if he was more frustrated by the first-period interference period that resulted in the first goal of the game, Alberts said, "It's all frustrating. You barely hit a guy and he falls down. They're going to call those."

-- Dave Lozo



O'Donnell talks value of experience

4.15.2010 / 4:10 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Defenseman Sean O'Donnell is 38 years old, an anomaly in the dressing room of the youthful Los Angeles Kings. Of course that makes him a target for anyone who wants to talk about the lack of experience for some key members of his team.

For Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Alexander Frolov, tonight will be their first Stanley Cup Playoff game. So does the relative inexperience of the Kings matter?

"If we don't win, yeah," O'Donnell said. "If we do win, I'm going to say it's a blessing."

For a lot of the Kings who lack playoff experience, they make up for it in other ways.

Doughty won gold right here in Vancouver for Team Canada. Brown and defenseman Jack Johnson were part of Team USA's silver-medal team. Kopitar has played on the international stage and Frolov is hardly a kid at the age of 27.

O'Donnell says he's not the least bit worried about the Kings' playoff newbies.

"We have some guys who are competitors. When they're on the ice they're pretty competitve. When they're off the ice, they're pretty laid back," he said. "I think that's goinng to help these guys, especially starting in Canada here not to get caught up in the whole buzz and feeling and energy and electricty of what's going on.

"I don't think any of them are going to stay up at night tossing and turning or reading their articles or getting on the Internet just reading too much. So I think in that way they're going to be fine."

O'Donnell also talked about his own beginnings and who passed down the savvy veteran knowledge when he was just getting started. He was hesitant to name his mentor for fear of dating himself, but he finally came clean.

"This is going to sound bad. I learned a lot in the minors. My defensive partner was Lindy Ruff," said O'Donnell, who played with the current Sabres coach while with the AHL Rochester Americans in 1991-92. "It was his last year pro, and he's a guy who really taught me a lot. And you can see he's got a calm demeanor. You can see how he's done so well in Buffalo. His teams are just steady every single year. They might not have the most talent, but they're just steady.

"I remember some of the things he taught me. When you make a bad play, just take a deep breath and don't go chasing the guy you made a bad pass to. It's stuff I still remember and stuff I try to pass on to Drew (Doughty) or Jack (Johnson) and some of these other guys."

-- Dave Lozo


Game 1 upsets don't faze Canucks

4.15.2010 / 2:30 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- The opening night of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs featured four upsets and three road teams winning. It was a stark reminder that nothing can be taken for granted this time of year, that your seed doesn't dictate your quality of play and having home-ice advantage can mean nothing.

For the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks, who host the sixth-seeded Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series Thursday night, those surprises on Wednesday weren't breaking news. They are well aware of the perils and pitfalls of postseason hockey.

"I didn't need last night to realize that," goaltender Roberto Luongo said. "I think we all know everyone starts at zero. We know who we're playing and what type of team they are. By no means is this is an easy series. If we want to win, we have to play well."

"Like you all saw last night, it doesn't mean much," defenseman Shane O'Brien said of the Canucks' home-ice advantage. "Once the puck's dropped, it's a whole new ballgame. You just got to be ready to play and play your systems well and play a full 60-minute game. Those guys work hard on the other side and they're extremely talented. By no means can we take shifts off."

There's plenty of reason for the Canucks to not take the Kings lightly. Since 2005-06, the No. 6 seed has won five of eight first-round series.

Still, the lessons of Wednesday night were learned a long time ago by the Canucks, and coach Alain Vigneault doesn't believe those Game 1s have any bearing on the Game 1 happening at GM Place

"What's happening in the other series has nothing to do with our series," he said. "We know we're up against a very strong and prepared and tough opponent. Tonight's Game 1 and we're going to be ready for it. We've been looking forward to this for quite some time."

-- Dave Lozo

You sexy thing
4.14.2010 / 4:15 PM ET

When Canucks coach Alain Vigneault stepped to the podium Wednesday morning in the bowels of GM Place, there wasn't much for him to discuss in terms of fresh news.

Vigneault said defenseman Sami Salo, who has been in and out of the lineup lately, is still expected to play Thursday night in Game 1 against the Los Angeles. Alex Burrows, who ranked just 16th in power-play ice time for the Canucks this season, could see more time with the man-advantage on the second unit with Ryan Kesler and Kyle Wellwod.

With the news out of the way, it was time for the interesting portion of the press conference to begin.

A reporter asked Vigneault about the daily routine of players during the postseason. Things like exercise and practice and time to rest and eating habits.

Then at the end of the lengthy question about the daily activities of the players, the reporter also mentioned sex. Vigneault, without missing a beat, had the answer that got the press room chuckling.

"You have sex everyday?"

Once the laughter subsided, he did attribute his team's terrific play this season in the third period -- their 101 goals in the final period are second to Washington's 112 -- to the team's off-ice program for the players.

"I think for all the other things before the sex, we do a real good job making sure about the conditioning, the nutrition," Vigneault said. "Everything that we can control, that we should control as far as professional teams, we do. And I believe that's probably one of the reasons our record in the third period has been so solid and so strong.

"As far as the sex goes, that's none of my business," he said while barely able to control his laughter. "They can do what they want."

***

Vigneault elaborated on the move to let Burrows see the ice a little more often on the power play.

"In that situation it's just him or (Steve) Bernier and it's about a net-front presence," he said. "We've got a few defensemen who really shot the puck real well. For that shot to be effective you need a net-front presence."

Burrows had 35 goals this season, but just four on the power play. It was pointed out to Vigneault that it was quite odd to see that sort of disparity, but he offered only, "I'm a different guy," as an explanation for Burrows' lack of power-play time this season.

"I think it gives us a different look with a lefty out there," Kesler said of using Burrows instead of Bernier, who is right-handed. "If he does get in we're going to need him to produce, and he knows it."

***

Despite now having an Olympic gold medal to his credit now, goaltender Roberto Luongo was still forced to answer a question about his reputation -- fair or unfair -- about his lack of his success in the high-pressure world of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Luongo was asked if he is all upset that there are still people questioning him despite backstopping Canada to gold this year in Vancouver.

"I just worry about doing my job," Luongo said. "The only people who (I care about) are the guys in this locker room. I play for those guys and we play together as a team. At the end of the day we're the ones competing for the Cup, so that's all that matters to me."

-- Dave Lozo

Quote of the Day

This is a big year for us in a lot of ways. You can see Garth and management really trying to find that solution to get us into the playoffs and consistently have that. The pressure is great. You have to enjoy it. It just means there's a great opportunity ahead of you.

— Islanders captain John Tavares