The 2014 calendar year provided plenty of ups and downs for Canucks fans but there are two things that can't be debated – the second half of 2014 was much better than the first, and the year closed out the best way possible. In their final game of 2014 on Tuesday, Vancouver turned in a solid effort from top to bottom in a 3-1 win over the Sharks to conclude a two-game road trip where they earned three out of a possible four points. Although the Canucks are still six games away from reaching the midway mark of the season, the win was critical in clearing some of the logjam in the Pacific Division standings as it allowed the Canucks to move temporarily into sole possession of second place in the division although San Jose's win yesterday over Anaheim now has the Sharks sharing that spot once again. Vancouver will look to create some more distance against another one of their closest followers, the Kings, who enter play tonight sitting just one point behind them in the standings albeit having played three more games.
If there was ever a good time to face the Kings, it might be right now. Los Angeles stumbled to close out 2014 losing three of their last four outings including being a rare victim of the Oilers two nights ago in a 3-2 shootout loss. The Kings, who close out a three-game Western Canada road swing tonight, are looking to avoid losing three straight games for the first time since they went winless in four from October 28 to November 2. Los Angeles will be looking to repeat their dominating performance from back on November 8 when they hosted the Canucks at Staples Center and skated away with a convincing 5-1 win. Ryan Miller, who was pulled after allowing four goals on 22 shots in that game, will likely get a chance to atone for that tonight. Jonathan Quick, meanwhile, has started eight in a row for Los Angeles and is the likely go-to-guy for Darryl Sutter again tonight unless the coach opts to give his team a different look and go with North Vancouver's Martin Jones. Jones, whose father is the Canucks VP of Construction, has never started a game against Vancouver. Zack Kassian has been cleared to return to action after missing the last 13 games with a finger injury but is not expected to play tonight.
Puck drop at 7 pm PT – Live on Sportsnet, TSN 1040, or online at tsn1040.ca.
Regular Season Record
2014.15 Season Series
Keys to the Game
Don't squander early opportunities. The last time the Canucks played the Kings, they had an early 5-on-3 advantage but weren't able to cash in. LA subsequently opened the scoring and cruised to a blowout win. Vancouver needs to be strong to start the game and preferably get an early advantage on the scoreboard.
Protect the net. The Canucks have to be wary of Kings forwards barreling down on their netminder as is usually their MO. But even though the Canucks will want to protect their crease, they will need to make sure they play between the whistles. The last thing they want is to give Los Angeles' red hot power play a chance to operate.
Goalie can't be homesick. In their current five-game road winless streak, the Kings have out-shot their opponent in four of those five games (the lone exception was a tie) and by a combined 171-110. That said, they've been outscored 18-10. It's not necessarily fair to pin it all on the goaltending, but the Kings do need that part to be much better.
By the Numbers
All-time win percentage for the Kings on New Year's Day (8-3-1). (3-1-0 on road).
Win percentage for the Canucks when Jannik Hansen scores a goal (5-1-1).
Game road winless streak for the Kings entering tonight's game (0-3-2).
Straight regular season home games without a regulation loss for the Canucks to the Kings dating back to March 13, 2009 (8-0-3).
Goals for Kings forward Tyler Toffoli, tied for his career-high set last season. He also leads all Kings with that total.
Home games played by the Canucks this season, fewest in the NHL. The Canucks begin a five-game home stand tonight.