Kings-Canucks Preview

The Los Angeles Kings’ current run has helped put a slow start
to their Stanley Cup title defense further behind them.

Visiting Los Angeles seeks a sixth consecutive victory Saturday
night by knocking off the slumping Vancouver Canucks for the eighth
time in 10 meetings.

The Kings (10-6-2) seemed to be suffering from the dreaded
Stanley Cup hangover during a 3-5-2 start, but they’ve bounced back
to win seven of eight.

Anze Kopitar has two goals and six assists during a four-game
point streak after notching one of each in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over
Detroit.

“We’re putting together a pretty good streak here, and we’ve got
to keep it going,” Kopitar said. “We know we had a bit of a slow
start and we’ve got some catching up to do.”

Los Angeles, which has at least one game in hand on every team
in the Western Conference heading into Saturday’s action, knows it
will be a tough race for postseason spots during the shortened
season.

“We want to be at the top of our division, top of our conference
and we’re definitely going to have to play with urgency in order to
do that,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “As we go on in this
season, it’s going to be more playoff-style hockey.”

Defense and goaltending have been huge reasons for the recent
success. Jonathan Bernier made 32 saves Wednesday and has won each
of his last four starts while stopping 91 of 95 shots, and Jonathan
Quick has won his last three while posting a 1.33 goals-against
average.

Los Angeles has outscored opponents 25-11 over its last eight,
giving up one goal six times in that stretch.

“You have to play that way if you want to be a playoff team,”
coach Darryl Sutter said. “The goaltending has to keep being
great.”

It’s unclear who will be in net Saturday, though Quick made 21
saves and three more in the shootout as the Kings beat Vancouver
3-2 on Jan. 28. He improved to 7-2-0 with a 1.53 GAA in his last
nine starts versus the Canucks, including the postseason.

That meeting marked the first since Los Angeles bounced the
Presidents’ Trophy winners in five games in last season’s
first-round playoff series. The Kings held the Canucks to fewer
than three goals for the eighth time while winning seven of the
last nine overall.

Vancouver (10-5-4) is 2-3-2 over its last seven, including an
8-3 defeat at Detroit on Sunday and Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Phoenix
that dropped it to 0-2-1 over its last three at home.

“You’ve got 48 games to get the points you need to make the
playoffs,” said Henrik Sedin, who has three goals and seven assists
over his last seven. “You can’t take three or four games off. Every
game means something.”

Center Ryan Kesler has a broken right foot and will be out up to
six weeks, which may not bode well for a Canucks team beginning a
busy month.

“Starting off in March, we’re playing basically every other day
until the end of the year,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “It’s the
schedule that we have. We’re going to work on the things we need to
work on and hopefully we’ll be really good on Saturday.”

It’s unclear if Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo, who gave up
all eight goals Sunday, will be in net versus the Kings.