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Canucks go for season sweep of Kings

by John McGourty

CANUCKS (46-26-4) at KINGS (43-27-6)

Last 10 -- Vancouver 5-3-2; Los Angeles 4-5-1

Season series -- It's is the fourth and final meeting of the Western Conference rivals, and the Kings are looking for their first victory. Mikael Samuelsson scored in regulation and the shootout to lead Vancouver to a 2-1 victory in Los Angeles on Oct. 29. Roberto Luongo made 31 saves and four different Canucks scored in a 4-1 victory on Nov. 26 in Vancouver. One game after taking first place in the Western Conference, the Kings fell 3-1 in Vancouver as Jarrett Stoll was lost for seven games with a groin injury. The Kings are 55-37-16-2 all-time against the Canucks.

Big story -- The Canucks can clinch a playoff berth with a victory over the Kings. They hold a seven-point lead over the Colorado Avalanche and are poised to capture their second-straight Northwest Division crown, third in four years and fourth in six years. The Kings stand seventh in the Western Conference after leading it earlier in the season and are seven points ahead of the ninth-place Calgary Flames as they try to lock out their first postseason berth in eight years.

Team Scope:

Canucks -- Henrik Sedin leads the NHL with 104 points, three ahead of Washington's Alex Ovechkin. He has 29 goals and 75 assists and is plus-36 with five game-winning goals. He's deserving of a berth on the season-ending First or Second NHL All-Star Team. Henrik, Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows combined for six points in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Phoenix and had 15 of the team's 29 shots. Insiders credit Henrik Sedin's growing leadership qualities as exemplified in this quote when asked about his NHL points lead: "I really think the franchise is screaming for the Stanley Cup," he said. "I really don't think individual awards mean too much."

Kings -- Los Angeles broke a four-game losing streak in Tuesday's 2-0 win over the Predators and now has only to break even the rest of the season -- that is, get six points in the remaining six games -- to clinch their first Stanley Cup Playoff berth since 2002. Rookie Jonathan Bernier's first NHL shutout against Nashville has earned him the chance to start against the Canucks. Coach Terry Murray announced after practice Wednesday that Bernier would play Thursday, with season-long starter Jonathan Quick back in the net on Saturday "and next week," while reaffirming that Quick is still the No. 1 goalie. Quick is 3-7-1 in his last 11 games and ranks 17th with a 2.54 goals-against average and 28th with a .907 save percentage. Bernier, the Kings' first-round pick in the 2006 Entry Draft, has allowed just one goal in winning two starts after tearing up the AHL while playing for Manchester.

Who's hot -- Bernier is 2-0-0 with a .984 save percentage and 0.48 GAA in two NHL games this season, including the win over the Predators. Rookie Scott Parse has three of the Kings' four goals this week, including the game-winner at Nashville. ... Henrik Sedin has eight points in three games. Daniel Sedin has five points in three games. Burrows has four points in two games and has scored a career-high 35 goals. Ryan Kesler has 15 points in 15 games. Goalie Roberto Luongo is 6-3-1 in his last 10 games.

Injury report -- Kings backup goalie Erik Ersberg is day-to-day with a back injury. ... Canucks forward Pavol Demitra has missed four games for personal reasons. Samuelsson has missed six games with an upper-body injury. Right wing Steve Bernier has missed 14 games with a groin injury. Center Alexandre Bolduc has been out since Jan. 16 with a shoulder injury. Defenseman Willie Mitchell has been out since Jan. 20 with a concussion. Shane O'Brien has been suspended by the team and won't make the trip.

Stat pack -- No Western Conference current qualifier has won fewer home games (21), than the Kings and only one West qualifier has won fewer road games than the Canucks (18). Oddly, the Canucks have set a team record for home wins (28) while the Kings set a team record for road wins (22).

Puck drop -- Burrows, the only non-Sedin on Vancouver's top line, got excited describing Henrik Sedin's blind, behind-the-back pass to brother Daniel for the Canucks' fourth goal Tuesday against Phoenix: "On Danny's goal it's a spinarama, backhand, under-the-stick pass right on the money. How good was that? At the same time, he's working hard. Did you see him on the backcheck? He's coming back and pickpocketing guys and grabbing the puck, he's got his head up, he wants to make plays and he wants the puck and he wants to be the guy. He is doing a great job for us."

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