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High-scoring Canucks face youthful Kings @NHLdotcom

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -The tight-checking, low-scoring Vancouver Canucks who have leaned on star goalie Roberto Luongo to win games in recent years aren't in these playoffs.

These third-seeded Canucks rode NHL points-leader Henrik Sedin and the second-highest scoring offense in the league to the playoffs and a first-round matchup with the Los Angeles Kings that starts Thursday night.

And Vancouver is not about to go into a defensive shell now.

"We can't sit back," said Ryan Kesler, one of six Canucks to score 25 or more goals, most on any team. "If we change our game and become a defensive-minded team we're not playing to our strengths. We have what I think is the best goalie in the NHL back there and he allows us to take chances offensively. We can't play too crazy but we still have to go out there and take it."

Vancouver finished a respectable 12th in the NHL goals against, giving up 2.66 a game. But that number was a lot better before the Olympic break. The Canucks allowed three or more goals in 21 of their final 29 games.

The problems started when shutdown defensemen Willie Mitchell was lost - likely for the season - to a Jan. 16 concussion, and were compounded by Luongo's letdown after backstopping Canada to a gold medal at the 2010 Olympics.

Luongo's save percentage dipped to .913 this season, his worst since his rookie year with the New York Islanders a decade earlier, and was .892 after the gold medal, including giving up a career-high eight goals to the Kings on April 1.

"I've been in a good state of mind the last week or so," said Luongo, who still posted 40 wins for the second time, and insists he isn't concerned about a more wide-open style of play in front of him. "I'm just worried about doing my job and if there are breakdowns, make the save."

Sedin said the Canucks need to tighten up, suggesting some of their recent defensive struggles came from trying to get him the scoring title and cheating toward the offensive end.

But Kesler believes it's just as important to pressure a young Kings team with plenty of playoff experience among its complimentary players, but none in a core of stars that includes leading-scorer Anze Kopitar, captain Dustin Brown, top defensemen Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, and No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Quick.

The Kings are in the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

"We've got to go on the attack and make them scared of us almost," Kesler said.

The sixth-seeded Kings were the better defensive team this season, finishing ninth in the league with a 2.57 goals-against average. But their starting goalie also struggled after the Olympics, with Quick failing to win his final eight starts of the season, getting pulled twice.

"You never doubt yourself. You can't," the 24-year-old Quick said after finishing stuck on 39 wins. "I don't think there's a reason I should be questioning myself at all, or anything like that. I feel confident heading into the playoffs."

Struggling goalies is just one of many similarities between two teams.

The power plays posted nearly identical numbers near the top the league (20.8 percent for the Kings to 20.9 for the Canucks), and the penalty kill struggled similarly in the bottom half of the NHL (80.3 percent for Los Angeles to 81.6 for Vancouver). Even home-ice advantage is tempered.

Vancouver, which also hosts Game 2 on Saturday, was tied for the most home wins in the NHL with 30, but the Kings were also tied atop the NHL with 24 victories on the road.

The Canucks did win three of four games in the season series, but thanks to the Kings' recent blowout both teams scored 11 goals against each other.

"Luongo is very capable of shutting things down," Kings coach Terry Murray said after that 8-3 victory on April 1. "But the bottom line is we figured out a way to get through the middle of the ice in that game, and that's a great example of what you can do if you're a persistent, attacking team."

Which is exactly what the Canucks will also try to be.

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