CANUCKS (6-6-0) at KINGS (8-4-1)
: Canucks 6-4-0; Kings 6-3-1.
Season series --
This is the first of four meetings between the teams. In their most recent showdown back on April 9, Roberto Luongo
stopped all 20 shots he faced to lead Vancouver to a 1-0 victory at GM Place. Ryan Kesler
scored the lone goal. But Luongo won't be on hand for the rematch -- he sustained a broken rib on Tuesday night and will miss at least two games.
Big story --
Hockey in Southern California is back in a big way. While the Anaheim Ducks have been a force to be reckoned with in recent seasons, Los Angeles was in rebuilding mode. Those days seem to be over, however, as the Kings added pieces such as Ryan Smyth and Rob Scuderi
during the offseason and are off to a terrific start in the new campaign. Nearly one month into the season, Los Angeles finds itself in a first-place tie with San Jose in the Pacific Division.
How good is backup netminder Andrew Raycroft? The Canucks are about to find out. With Luongo out for the Canucks' two-game trip through Southern California, the former Calder Trophy winner will get the chance to show what he can do after watching Luongo start Vancouver's first 12 games.
"I've had more than enough time," Raycroft said of his inactivity. "We've basically had two months so it'll be fun to get in there."
Luongo said he was injured during Saturday night's 3-1 win over Toronto. Amazingly, he shut out Edmonton 2-0 on Sunday -- but looked like he was in less than top form Tuesday night, when Detroit overcame a two-goal deficit for a 5-4 win.
The All-Star goaltender said he doesn't plan to rush his return.
"It's about healing and making sure you don't have issues the rest of the year," he said. "It's not about sucking it up and playing."
-- They failed to hang on to their lead in the Pacific Division on Wednesday night, but Los Angeles did manage to pick up a point by forcing overtime. With 17 points, the Kings are now tied for first place with the San Jose Sharks, who edged L.A. in the shootout in a 2-1 decision at HP Pavilion.
''We played a really good first period,'' Kings goalie Jonathan Quick
said. ''They might not have had their feet underneath them so we got the better of them in the first period. But (Evgeni) Nabokov kept them in it and they really stepped it up there in the second and third.''
Who's hot --
Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa
had three assists on Tuesday night and has 7 points in 12 games, while four others are already in double digits: Henrik Sedin
(6-9-15), Mikael Samuelsson
(5-6-11), Ryan Kesler
(4-7-11) and Christian Ehrhoff (3-7-10). Anze Kopitar
has been the best player in all of Southern California, as he has eight points in his last four games for the Kings and 21 overall, tops in the League.
-- Luongo didn't make the trip to Southern California. Sami Salo
(knee), Rick Rypien (groin) and Kyle Wellwood (toe) are expected to be game-time decisions for the Canucks, while Daniel Sedin
(foot), Pavol Demitra (shoulder) and Jannik Hansen
(fingers) also are out. For the Kings, forward Justin Williams
has missed four consecutive games with a lower-body injury, while defenseman Alec Martinez
(ankle) and right wing Rich Clune
(groin) are out.
Stat pack -- Henrik Sedin
snapped a three-game pointless skid on Sunday with his first goal since twin brother Daniel broke his foot on Oct. 7. He followed that up with a three-point performance in Detroit on Tuesday to give him a team-leading 15 points. … Kings forward Alexander Frolov scored again on Wednesday night, giving him seven points in his last four games. Jonathan Quick
made 29 saves against the Sharks and is among the League leaders in wins with eight.
Puck drop --
The Kings are coming off a grueling 2-1 shootout loss at San Jose on Tuesday, so expect Vancouver to come out hard. But L.A. is likely to put as many early shots as possible on Raycroft, whose only action has been a pair of relief appearances and figures to be rusty.
-- Brian Compton, NHL.com