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Playoff rivals meet again as Kings host Canucks

by Brian Hunter

CANUCKS (15-9-6) at KINGS (17-11-2)

TV: NHLN-US, SNET-Pacific, FS-West

Last 10: Vancouver 4-4-2; Los Angeles 6-4-0

Season series: Third and final meeting of the regular season. The home team has won the prior two matchups. Jeff Carter's shootout goal helped the Kings to a 3-2 victory on Jan. 28. Daniel Sedin had the decisive goal in the Canucks' 5-2 triumph on March 2.

Big story: If the Stanley Cup Playoffs were to begin Saturday, the fourth-seeded Kings would host the fifth-seeded Canucks in the first round, a rematch of last spring when Los Angeles pulled off a stunning five-game upset of top-seeded Vancouver en route to winning the franchise's first championship.

Team Scope:

Canucks: It's been a while since Vancouver had to worry about a serious challenger for the Northwest Division title, but the Canucks are in a battle right now with the Wild for a guaranteed playoff berth and top-three seed. They're even in points, but Minnesota has played one fewer game and has two more wins. The Canucks do enter Saturday on a two-game winning streak, as Jordan Schroeder's goal with 10:07 remaining and Cory Schneider's 33-save performance led them to a 2-1 win in Phoenix on Thursday.

"Once I saw it sitting on the goal line, my eyes lit up," said Schroeder, a recent call-up from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. "It was kind of an ugly road win, but that's what we need. It was a good team win."

Kings: Goal scoring hasn't been a bugaboo for Los Angeles this season, as the Kings have gone from second-worst in the NHL in goals per game last season (2.29) to eighth-best (2.90) heading into Friday's action. On Thursday night, however, they had no answers for Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen. It wasn't for a lack of effort that the Kings were blanked, 2-0, as they finished with 40 shots on goal. Lehtonen stopped them all, though, and the Stars broke through for a pair of third-period goals against Jonathan Quick.

"They got the first bounce, but again that's not an excuse," forward Anze Kopitar said. "We should have gotten the job done before that."

Who's hot: Schneider has won consecutive starts for the Canucks, stopping 65 of 68 shots. Defenseman Christopher Tanev opened the scoring Thursday with his second career NHL goal.

Injury report: Vancouver forwards Chris Higgins (back) and Steve Pinizzotto (illness) were out of the lineup Thursday and are day-to-day. Forwards Manny Malhotra (eye), Ryan Kesler (foot), David Booth (ankle) and Zack Kassian (back) are on injured reserve. … Los Angeles defensemen Willie Mitchell (knee) and Matt Greene (back) are on injured reserve.

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