Waiver wire pick-up Tom Sestito joined his teammates for the first time on Saturday morning at well-attended optional morning skate that saw all healthy bodies – with the exception of Canucks captain Henrik Sedin – present and accounted for.
Sestito, who has only played seven games with the Flyers this season and none since February 11, is raring to finally get a chance to get back on the ice and into game action.
"I haven't played in a game in a couple of weeks but I've been bag skating every day in Voorhees so I am ready to go," said Sestito.
The 6'5", 228 lbs. forward knows he's been brought in to provide a physical element for the team and knows exactly what he has to do to stay in the lineup on a regular basis.
"I think I just need to keep my game simple, not make mistakes, hit hard and fight when I have to."
Canucks' head coach Alain Vigneault admits he doesn't know a lot about Sestito ,but has been well-informed about what he can expect from the 25-year-old.
"I talked yesterday with Arnie [Chicago Wolves' head coach Scott Arniel] who had him before and obviously talked to some of our pro scouts and what you have is a big body who is supposed to play the game with an edge, understands his role on a team and had been playing in Adirondack (AHL) here the last little while," said Vigneault. "We'll give him an opportunity tonight to see what he can do."
Canucks forward Dale Weise, who will skate alongside Sestito on Vancouver's fourth line, is looking forward to playing with the newest Canuck.
"I think he brings that element where he's physical every night, he's going to stand up for his teammates and he's going to make it hard on guys."
"Good chance" for Juice
Kevin Bieksa joined the team for a second consecutive day at the morning skate and while he was coy about whether or not he'd suit up tonight against the Kings, Coach Vigneault certainly seemed optimistic about the possibility of having his top scoring defenseman back in the lineup after missing two games with a groin injury.
"He'll be a game-time decision but if the morning skate is a reflection of how he'll feel tonight, there's a good chance he'll play," said Coach Vigneault.
Bieksa, who mentioned he still had to discuss with the trainers before declaring himself fit to return, admitted that if the choice were completely up to him there's no way he wouldn't be out there tonight to face the defending Stanley Cup champs.
"They're usually pretty fun, emotional games," said Bieksa. "If there's any chance I can play, I'll play."
Playing like the champs
The Kings stumbled out of the gate this season winning just three of their first 10 games but have been on a roll since then winning seven of their last eight games and bringing a five-game win streak into tonight's contest.
The scary part, especially for any team that had to face the Kings in the playoffs last year, is that Los Angeles is starting to resemble the team that dominated their way through the post-season en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
"What you saw them do against us and everybody they steamrolled last year in the playoffs, they're right back to that,” said Coach V. "They're heavy, they play big, they put pucks in an area where they can wear the opposition down, and they've got quite an amount of skill that when they get space and time they make plays."
Cory Schneider, who will pick up his first career regular season start against the Kings tonight, echoed the sentiments of his head coach.
"They started a little bit slowly but they're playing like everyone expected them to now," said Schneider. "They're still the defending Stanley Cup champions and we know firsthand how good they can be and how good they must be playing right now if they're on this kind of run."
Leading the way
The last time the Canucks faced the Kings back on January 28, they managed to jump out to a 2-0 lead not that it did them much good in the end as they squandered that advantage and ended up dropping a 3-2 shootout decision at the Staples Center.
That being said, Vancouver knows they'll have a much better chance at succeeding if they get a lead instead of trying to play catch up all game long as they have done for the most part in their last two outings. The Canucks haven't had the benefit of playing with the lead since early in the second period of their eventual 8-3 loss to the Red Wings two games ago.
Add in the fact the Kings are virtually impenetrable in third periods and you realize what the significance of getting an early lead will be in tonight's tilt.
“They're a really good team when they have the lead or when the game is tied,” said Canucks forward Alex Burrows. "They're comfortable in one-goal game."
Los Angeles has not allowed a third period goal in their last six games and has only given up two goals in third periods over their last 11 games.
"They must have been up in most of those games," said Burrows. "They just close that neutral zone and go in front of the net and block shots. It'll be important for us to keep working and have a 60-minute effort."