CANUCKS (24-12-2) at KINGS (18-14-6)
TV: CBC, FS-W (HD)
Vancouver 7-2-1; Los Angeles 5-3-2
It's the second of four meetings and the second in a row in Los Angeles, the first one going the Canucks' way as they protected an early 3-0 lead, holding off a late Kings' surge for a 3-2 win. They split both home and away last season, and the overall historical record is pretty close to even, but each enjoys a significant home-ice advantage over the other, as the Kings have a 57-36-18 record in Los Angeles, while the Canucks are 57-33-19 in Vancouver.
The Kings can catch their breath now, as a particularly arduous part of the schedule has passed. Six games in 10 days, four of them on the road and a pair of back-to-backs to boot, make a 4-0-2 mark all the more impressive. They'll be spending the next two weeks at home over a six-game stand. The Canucks likewise are off a back-to-back and are looking to complete a California trifecta, having already beaten the Sharks and Ducks.
As well as they have been playing overall, the Canucks have had problems with the second game of back-to-backs, having lost four of five this season after going 8-1-2 last year. They built on their dramatic 3-2 win in San Jose on Wednesday with an early jump in Anaheim on Thursday. Henrik Sedin
scored 1:11 into the game and Jonas Hiller was chased after two periods as the Canucks dominated in a 5-2 win. The win was the Canucks' third in a row.
"A lot of times when you play back-to-back, the tougher the first game is, the better you feel the second game," Henrik told the team's official website. "Three in four is not a tough thing, when it comes down to four in six and those types of things, that's where you feel the fatigue.”
The Kings also had a back-to-back to contend with, facing the Jets in Winnipeg Thursday after shutting out the Blackhawks in Chicago the night before. Just as Jonathan Quick
had done in the Windy City, Jonathan Bernier
kept a lid on the net throughout regulation, giving way 69 seconds into overtime as Evander Kane scored for a 1-0 Jets win.
"We played two games in less than a day -- get in here at 2:30 in the morning and we take three of four points," coach Darryl Sutter said. "Better to look at it like that, right?"
The Kings pulled an oh-fer on five power plays, including a 5-on-3 in the second period, but just couldn't convert on Steve Mason.
"We were moving the puck, but we just couldn't finish it off," Kings forward Anze Kopitar
said. "You've got to work hard to create chances, and then you have to bear down on it. That's all there is to it."
It always starts with the Sedins in Vancouver, and Henrik hasn't been held off the board two games in a row since Nov. 3-4. In the 24 games since, he has 6 goals and 31 points, including 5 points in his last three games. His 10th goal opening the scoring Thursday made him the sixth Canuck to score in double figures this season. Daniel has 8 points in his last seven games, and he hasn't pulled back-to-back oh-fers since before Halloween.
Canucks forward Chris Higgins
spent two nights in the hospital with swelling in his hand similar to what he suffered with a foot earlier this month. He remains questionable. Defenseman Aaron Rome
(broken thumb) is still a couple of weeks away, while forward David Booth
(knee) is expected to be skating again by mid-January. Forward Byron Bitz
(hip surgery) continues to progress, skating on his own and hoping to finally make his Canucks debut after signing with them over the summer. … For the Kings, Simon Gagne
was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with an upper-body injury.
Special teams have been crippling the Kings lately, as they have managed just four power-play goals in their last 17 games and have scored only twice in their last 42 opportunities. … Bernier has allowed three goals in his last three starts and has three losses to show for the effort. … Meanwhile, Roberto Luongo
is 9-1-1 with a 1.71 goals-against average in his last 11 starts and Schneider has been strong slotting in where he can, winning six of his last seven decisions. … The Canucks have scored four or more goals or more in 11 of their last 15 games. … Cory Hodgson is fifth among NHL rookies with 20 points, but averages a mere 12:29 of ice time per game.
"I think it's preparation, we know we have to be up for every game. That showed early on in the season when we didn't score the first goal and that came from not being sharp enough. Right now we are really up for game and know those first 10 minutes are key for setting the pace." -- Henrik Sedin on how the Canucks try to get on the board early, given that they are 9-1-0 when they score in the first five minutes of a game.