The Kings had been 0-2-1 this season against Nashville before they earned a victory over the Predators on Tuesday. Now it's the Vancouver Canucks, who have beaten the Kings in all three meetings this season (once in a shootout) coming to STAPLES Center.
Tonight's game could put the Kings one step closer to the playoffs and could put the Kings closer to a first-round series against these same Canucks.
Vancouver is essentially locked into the third spot in the Western Conference, while the Kings are in seventh, just one point out of sixth and a potential 3-6 first-round series.
That's not necessarily good news for the Kings, given that they have scored only one goal in each of their three previous games against the Canucks this season.
The Canucks are always tough in the back end, with goalie Roberto Luongo, and up front with Henrik Sedin, who leads the NHL with 104 points this season, but Kings coach Terry Murray believes that the key to success is in the middle of the ice.
"You have to find a way to win some games against Vancouver," Murray said. "We had the same issue against Nashville, just a couple of days ago. We came close, in the first game of the year against Vancouver, and went into a shootout. They're a very good hockey club. They're tight defensively, and we have to get through the middle of the ice. That is, to me, where we have our biggest issue. We have to get behind their team, behind their defensemen, and get some quality play in the offensive zone.
"If we can do that, we're a pretty good cycle team, pretty good in the offensive zone. Luongo is the next barrier that we have to crack, and he's a good one. Traffic is important against him, so that he's not able to pick up the puck as easily as he has in past games."
This is the first Kings-Canucks game since Dec. 14, a 3-1 Canucks victory at STAPLES Center. Since ending their massive 14-game road trip in early March, the Canucks have a 5-3-1 record in their last nine games. NO CHANGES
For the first time in a while, the Kings are not expected to make any changes to their lineup or forward lines and, as expected, Jonathan Bernier
will get the start in goal.
The Kings' scratches are expected to be Rich Clune
, Davis Drewiske
, Erik Ersberg, Peter Harrold and Raitis Ivanans. OLYMPIC FEVER?
The Kings enter tonight's game with a 6-7-2 record since the Olympic break, which is tied for the 11th-best record in the Western Conference since the break.
There's been much talk about the idea of "Olympic fatigue" for NHL teams that had several players participating in the Games, but the numbers don't substantiate it. Detroit, which had eight Olympians, has the NHL's best record (12-2-1) since the break. Edmonton, which had only two Olympians, is 5-9-1.
The Kings had five Olympians -- Dustin Brown
, Drew Doughty
, Michal Handzus, Jack Johnson and Jonathan Quick
-- all of whom played for a medal, and Murray said he believes that experience will be beneficial to the players in the NHL playoffs.
"For the young guys that were involved in it, there's no question," Murray said. "The focus on the U.S.-Canadian game, in particular, was incredible. The level of play, the pace of the play, and I think the guys we had in those games, especially, were very good and contributed to their teams. So yeah, they've got to draw on that later on."
HONOR FOR BERNIER
The AHL on Thursday selected Bernier as its "first-team all-star" goalie. In 56 games with the Manchester Monarchs, Bernier has a 2.07 goals-against average, a .936 save percentage, eight shutouts and a 29-30-5 record.
Bernier was the only Monarch selected to the first or second team...more.BIG SHOT
The Kings have recorded at least 30 shots on goal in each of their last five games, a figure that pleases Murray, and he's especially happy with the production of Anze Kopitar
Kopitar, the Kings' leading scorer, had only two shots on goal in Monday's loss to Minnesota but had a team-high eight in Tuesday's victory over Nashville, the type of large shot total that Murray likes to see.
"I really do, and I like where they’re coming from," Murray said. "He’s coming with a lot of speed through the middle of the ice and attacking, whether it’s in the wide lane or through the middle. He has that presence, when coming down into the offensive zone, to shoot the puck. He shoots it so heavy and so hard that if you get people driving through and stopping at the net, most times there are going to be other opportunities there." TICKETS ON SALE
The Kings announced that individual-game first-round playoff tickets will go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. exclusively at LAKings.com/playoffs. Tickets will not be on sale by phone or at the STAPLES Center box office until the Kings clinch a playoff spot.