Kings-Canucks Preview

The Vancouver Canucks may be able to earn their first

Presidents’ Trophy on Thursday night. The Los Angeles Kings have

far more incentive as they go for a fifth straight win.

The short-handed Kings can move a step closer to the playoffs if

they can go on the road and end the Canucks’ four-game win

streak.

Vancouver (51-17-9) has clinched the top seed in the Western

Conference after Tuesday’s 3-1 victory at Nashville. The Canucks

completed a perfect four-game road trip in which they outscored

opponents 12-4.

“We talked about getting in, getting first in our division, and

if the conference was there, go for it,” coach Alain Vigneault

said. “We did it and we clinched it. It is a good moment for our

group.”

Vancouver could clinch the best record in the NHL on Thursday,

depending partly on the result of a game between East-leading

Philadelphia and Atlanta. The Canucks are nine points ahead of the

Flyers, who have five games left after Thursday.

Los Angeles (44-26-6), meanwhile, is in fifth place in the West

as it completes a two-game trip. The Kings will have to get into

the postseason without top scorers Anze Kopitar and Justin

Williams.

Kopitar broke his right ankle in a 4-1 victory over Colorado on

Saturday, and Williams recently dislocated his shoulder. Neither

will play for the rest of the regular season.

“Everybody should have a bit more pressure on them,” forward

Dustin Penner said. “When you lose two guys like that, as a team

you have to play better offensively. We are pretty sound.”

The Kings played without Kopitar for the first time in Tuesday’s

2-0 victory at Edmonton. Jonathan Bernier made 32 saves for his

third shutout of the season.

“I think it was an important game for us with the fact that we

have a couple of the key guys out of the lineup, that you come and

play and check the right way,” coach Terry Murray told the Kings’

official website. “The system, the structure, you trust everyone

out there.”

Dustin Brown has stepped up, totaling four goals and two assists

in three games since Williams got hurt.

He’s helped the Kings win six straight road games, their longest

such streak since a seven-game run last season. They are 12-1-3

away from home since Jan. 21.

Strong goaltending down the stretch is another key for Los

Angeles. Bernier is 4-0-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average in five

starts this month while Jonathan Quick is 5-1-1 with a 1.95 GAA in

his last seven.

Bernier’s lone career start against the Canucks was an 8-3

victory April 1, 2010. Quick has started all three meetings this

season, going 2-1-0 with a 1.30 GAA.

Roberto Luongo opposed Quick in all of those games and posted a

1.95 GAA. He’s allowed one goal in three straight starts – all wins

– but the Canucks could use backup Cory Schneider, who has a 1.65

GAA in winning his last six.

The Kings have limited Henrik and Daniel Sedin to six points in

the three meetings. The twins combined for 18 last year in the

first round of the playoffs when the Canucks won in six games.

The Sedins totaled four assists Tuesday as Alex Burrows scored

twice.

The Canucks have the best penalty kill in the league at 86.5

percent, limiting opponents to one goal in 17 chances on their road

trip.

The Kings have been even better lately, holding opponents to 1

for 41 on the power play this month. They haven’t given up a

power-play goal in 12 consecutive road games.