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Kings continue to chase Pacific crown at Vancouver

by Davis Harper
KINGS (37-26-12) at CANUCKS (45-21-9)


Last 10: Los Angeles 7-3-0; Vancouver 4-5-1

Season Series: This is the fourth and final meeting of the season. Los Angeles holds a 2-1 series edge, including a 3-2 shootout win in the previous meeting in Rogers Arena on Jan. 17.

Big Story: Los Angeles -- a team desperate to gain an edge in the competitive Pacific Division -- heads to Vancouver for a Monday showdown. Waiting for them will be the Canucks, who clinched the Northwest Division on Saturday and now turn their focus to unseating the St. Louis Blues atop the Western Conference.
Team Scope:

Kings: For a team mired in offensive struggles for much of the season, Los Angeles has used an uptick in goals to make a late run at the postseason. The Kings scored 21 goals over six games – all wins – to move temporarily into the Pacific Division’s top spot. Goalie Jonathan Quick started five of those, capping the run with a 35-save shutout gem of the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. On Saturday, the Kings welcomed Boston to Staples Center with eyes on holding down the third position in the West. Boston had other ideas. The Bruins snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-2 win, but the Kings' offensive resurgence shone through despite the loss. Los Angeles mustered 42 shots, many of which elicited acrobatic stops from Tim Thomas.

"The team dug a hole on home ice early in the year and we've tried to win every game since then," coach Darryl Sutter said. "Simple, that's pretty clear, right? That's what we've tried to do and it's a tough task and it's a big chore."

Canucks: Thanks to a Dallas win over Calgary on Saturday afternoon, Vancouver wrapped up the Northwest Division before they even touched the ice later that night. Buoyed by their fourth consecutive division title, Vancouver took to the Rogers Arena ice to face Colorado in the late game. But Colorado -- like Los Angeles, a team fighting for their playoff lives -- jumped out to a 2-0 lead midway through the second period. The Canucks fought back, leveling before the second intermission through goals by Mason Raymond and Chris Higgins. Higgins also added the overtime winner, but Vancouver had goalie Roberto Luongo to thank for getting them to the extra period. After going 0-3-1 over his previous four, Luongo made 38 saves -- including all 12 in the third period -- for the victory.

"I felt good the last couple games," Luongo said. "I feel like I'm back where I want to be. That being said, it's a daily process. You have to make sure to put in the work and to play hard."

Who's Hot: While he has struggled of late, Luongo is 3-1-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average in his last five matchups with Los Angeles.

Injury Report: Simon Gagne is out indefinitely for the Kings with a concussion. … Daniel Sedin is out indefinitely with a concussion, Aaron Rome (sprained knee) will miss 1-2 weeks, while Keith Ballard (concussion), Andrew Ebbett (collarbone surgery) and Aaron Volpatti (shoulder surgery) are all likely to miss the rest of the season.

Stat Pack: The loss of one-half of the Sedin tandem could cost Vancouver, especially against the Kings. Sedin has seven goals and 10 assists during the 11-game point streak against Los Angeles, including the playoffs. Quick has been stingy even with Sedin in the lineup, with a 1.88 GAA over his last 11 regular-season starts.

Puck Drop: The tight Pacific race is not lost on the Los Angeles locker room.

"We know the situation we're in. We're battling with a bunch of other teams here to make the postseason, or win our division," Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "We're just preparing for every game the same way -- like it's a must-win."

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