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Presidents' Trophy nice, but Canucks hope for more

Thursday, 03.31.2011 / 5:12 PM / NHL Insider

By Dhiren Mahiban - NHL.com Correspondent

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Presidents' Trophy nice, but Canucks hope for more
If Vancouver beats the Kings and gets a bit of help from the Atlanta Thrashers, they can clinch the franchise's first Presidents' Trophy tonight.
VANCOUVER -- A win against Los Angeles plus a little help would clinch the Presidents' Trophy for the first time in franchise history for the Vancouver Canucks -- adding to a growing list of firsts for the club this season.

A Canucks win, coupled with a Philadelphia Flyers regulation loss to the Atlanta Thrashers, and Vancouver clinches the best record in the League. Making the accomplishment more impressive is that heading into Thursday’s games no other team had clinched a playoff berth in the Western Conference.

"It's not our main goal, but it's a goal along the way," Ryan Kesler said of the Presidents' Trophy. "It was good to clinch the Western Conference and to win the Presidents' Trophy, it's never been done (by the franchise). It would be a good thing for this franchise."

Vancouver returns to Rogers Arena in search of its fifth consecutive win. The Canucks have just two losses in their past 14 games and have three wins in their last five on home ice.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin have been held to a combined 6 points in three games against the Kings this season after combining for 18 in last spring's six-game Western Conference first-round playoff series victory against Los Angeles.

"They play us hard, we play them hard -- it's always a good game," said Kesler. "I don't expect anything less tonight. They're fighting for position and it's going to be a hard-fought game."

Roberto Luongo (36-14-7) will start in goal for the Canucks.

Juggling act -- With Manny Malhotra done for the season because of an eye injury, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault has been juggling lines to find chemistry on his third line.

Mason Raymond will center Raffi Torres and Jannik Hansen on Thursday, while Jeff Tambellini will move up to the second line with Kesler and Chris Higgins.

"We've tried (Raymond) throughout this year and a couple times in the past in the middle when we've needed help there and he's played well," Vigneault said. "I've been thinking about this for a while about giving him a chance with those players."

Life after Kopitar: The Los Angeles Kings got a taste of what their lineup would look like without leading scorers Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams on Tuesday when they blanked the Edmonton Oilers 2-0.

Captain Dustin Brown scored twice in the win and now has 4 goals and 2 assists in three games since Williams, who is out 4-6 weeks with a dislocated shoulder, was sidelined. Kopitar was lost for the season Saturday with a broken ankle.

Brown now leads the Kings with 27 goals.

"Obviously losing (Kopitar) and (Williams) is pretty tough -- they're two of our best offensive guys," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "(The injuries) can't make us shy away, all these points the rest of the way are so important to us. 

"Even though we don't have those two guys in the lineup, we're going to stick to our systems and the puck will keep going in for us."

"It's not our main goal, but it's a goal along the way. It was good to clinch the Western Conference and to win the Presidents' Trophy, it's never been done (by the franchise). It would be a good thing for this franchise." -- Ryan Kesler

The Kings come to Vancouver on a season-high, six-game road winning streak as they look to improve on a 2-1-0 record against the Canucks this season.

"They're a great team and it's fun to play against a team like Vancouver," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "They're very serious about business. They come to work in every game and when you're a group like we are, a young hockey club that played them last year in the playoffs, we hope that we're getting better from last year.

"It's a great opportunity to take a look at where you are as a team and continue with that rivalry."

Jonathan Quick, who is 5-1-1 with a 1.96 goals against average in his last seven starts, will get the start for the Kings. The 25-year-old has a 1.30 GAA in three starts against the Canucks this season.

Mitchell on his former mates -- Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell spent four seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, and the Port McNeill, B.C. native admits to hoping his former team succeeds.

"I'd like to see them do well, but I'd like to see us do a little better," he said. "They're a very good hockey team. I think mentally they got it figured out and that's the biggest change I've seen with them."
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