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Big expectations on both sides as Kings visit Canucks

by Matthew Mankiewich

KINGS (0-0-0) at CANUCKS (0-0-0)

TV -- CBC (HD), FS-West (HD)

Season series -- The Canucks took the first three meetings last season, absorbed an 8-3 drubbing in Los Angeles and then spotted the Kings a 2-1 series lead in first-round playoff meeting. Three games and a combined 17-8 score later, the Canucks moved on to a second-round defeat at the hands of the Blackhawks. Game 2 of the series, a 3-2 Kings overtime win, is especially significant because it is L.A.'s only win at Rogers Arena in their last five trips.

Big story -- Exactly 40 years ago on this date, the Canucks played their very first NHL game in front of a packed house at the Pacific Coliseum against these very same Kings -- and both teams will be dressed appropriately to celebrate the occasion. The Kings will be decked out in their original purple and gold, while the Canucks will go with their throwback sweater featuring the traditional "stick-in-rink" crest.

Naturally, the Kings would like nothing more than to channel some of those memories to the present day, particularly the result of that first game, a 3-1 Los Angeles win.

Team scope:

-- A breakout season ended far too soon in Vancouver last April, and naturally the Kings will be looking for more this season as expectations have begun to rise.

No longer is the talk about growth and development, now it's about winning, which is often what happens when a talented young defenseman like Drew Doughty turns in a Norris-finalist season or when top scorer Anze Kopitar becomes an A-list star.

"I love the expectations that everybody has for this hockey club," third-year coach Terry Murray said on the Kings' website. "They're legitimate. We took huge strides last year, a nice run to the playoffs, and with that comes more expectation, and we accept that. We're gladly embracing it and we're excited about the season."

Canucks -- While the Kings embrace their newfound attention, the Canucks have been living with high expectations for some time. Two consecutive Northwest Division titles whetted the fans' appetites, two playoff losses to the Blackhawks frustrated them. With the Stanley Cup champion Hawks being forced to work around salary-cap issues, a lot of the Canucks faithful are wondering if this is the year the franchise wins its first championship.

One important story for the short term, however, is who will take on the captain's "C" relinquished by goalie Roberto Luongo last month. Henrik Sedin is a favorite, but the announcement won't be made until just prior to Saturday's game.

Who's hot -- The Kings will take the ice with the youngest average age in the NHL at 25.4 years and one reason why is four hot rookies who worked their way into the opening-night lineup. Teenagers Kyle Clifford and Brayden Schenn will join fellow rookie Kevin Westgarth on the fourth line, while Jake Muzzin will pair up with Davis Drewiske on defense. Schenn has even worked his way into the Kings' first power-play unit, while Muzzin has taken a role in the second.

Injury report -- Defenseman Matt Greene (shoulder) might be back by the end of the month. Forward Scott Parse (groin) attempted to skate and shoot on Wednesday, but experienced discomfort and is likely to sit. … Canucks forward Alex Burrows will be out until at least November while he recovers from surgery to repair a torn labrum. Forward Rick Rypien (ribs) returned to practice Friday but remains questionable.

Stat pack -- Kopitar has played in 255 consecutive games, the Kings' record is 324, held by Marcel Dionne. Since beating the Canucks in their debut game in 1970, the Kings have met them three more times in season openers, all in Los Angeles. They tied 3-3 in 1982, lost 6-5 in 1985 and lost again 5-2 in 1993.

Puck drop -- "Is there added pressure? Probably a little bit. But we know that we have a really good chance. There are not many years where you feel you have a really good chance, and this year I feel we have a really good chance. We can go a long way." -- Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler via the team's official website on the Canucks' lofty expectations

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