Canucks host Kings to kick off post-holiday schedule (Dec 28, 2016)

BY AP • December 27, 2016

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Vancouver Canucks worked off their Christmas dinners Tuesday while looking to feast on the ice instead.

Coach Willie Desjardins put his squad through a hard workout that featured what some might call the proverbial bag skate as the Canucks (14-18-3) prepared to host the Los Angeles Kings (17-13-4) at Rogers Arena on Wednesday night.

"I think it's good to blow out the holiday a little bit," said Desjardins. "You always feel good when you skate hard."

Following the Christmas break, the Canucks will try to skate hard up the Western Conference standings. Prior to Christmas, they had showed signs of being a playoff contender at times, but struggled immensely in a 4-1 loss to Calgary in the last game before the holiday break.

The Canucks only mustered 14 shots in that non-contest, but Desjardins did not want to dwell on the one-sided setback, noting that a poor pre-Christmas effort is common in the NHL as players deal with many personal distractions.

"It happens to all the teams," said Desjardins. "There's no team in the league that it hasn't happened to. Is it disappointing? It is. It is so disappointing and frustrating. But you can't let a one-off cause you to change things or lose (sight of) where you're going."

The Canucks also suffered a 4-1 loss to Winnipeg in their final home game before Christmas -- two nights after thumping the Jets by an identical 4-1 score on the same Rogers Arena ice. But players were feeling better about themselves -- to a degree -- after the difficult workout.

Even goalies Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom took part in heavy skating.

"You certainly don't do a lot of it from the goalie position," said Miller, who is expecting to start against the Kings. "So my legs burned. But you just get the body moving. Overall, it felt good to track the puck."

He and the rest of the Canucks are expecting a physical affair from the Kings, who beat the Canucks 4-3 in a shootout in October.

"They're playing a little heavier game," said Miller. "I think their intensity is actually a little bit better than the last time we even saw them. So they're trying to ramp it up a little bit better."

Coach Desjardins, who wants his club to rev up its game after mostly close losses this season, said the Canucks know the Kings are eager to move up the standings in the post-Christmas period.

"They've got lots of talent there and they're a tough team to play," said Desjardins. "So we're going to get a great effort from them. We just have to be ready. We've gotta play our game."

Los Angeles entered the Christmas break on a high note by shutting out the Nashville Predators 4-0. Defenseman Luca Sbisa expects "just a typical Kings game."

"They're not gonna give you much," said Sbisa. "They're gonna be structured. So you've gotta make sure you take advantage when you get those chances."

But Sbisa said the Canucks' mood is positive, especially after defenseman Alex Edler returned to practice after being out with a broken finger since late November. Edler, who required surgery to repair "a clean break" that occurred while blocking a shot. Edler hedged when asked how soon he might be able to return to game action.

"I'm gonna talk to the medical guys now, and together we'll make a decision," said Edler. "But all I can say right now is today was good, and it's nice to be back out there. It's what I need to do right now. You can skate a little (on your own), but you can only do so much. You've gotta get into situations where you're not in control at all times. We'll see."

Sbisa suggested Vancouver's increasingly healthy lineup bodes well for the future. But with some tough home games against the Kings and Anaheim Ducks and a road contest in Edmonton coming up this week, the Canucks, 3-6-1 in their last 10, have to improve their play.

"Sometimes we've done pretty well against good teams, so we've gotta keep that up," he said. "If you look at the standings, we've gotta get some wins quickly here. We've gotta get on a bit of a roll. The way we went into the break obviously wasn't the way we planned it, so we've gotta make up for it and get back to work."

Sbisa said special teams, where the Canucks have fared poorly, will be a key factor Wednesday. The Kings have not surrendered a power-play goal in nine consecutive games, a span of 26 shorthanded situations.

"We're limiting the number of penalties that we take -- (that) obviously helps, two or three a game," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said recently. "We have good centermen that are pretty good penalty killers. There's no secret to it."

Meanwhile, winger Tyler Toffoli's status is not a secret anymore, although the exact nature of his injury is not clear. The Kings confirmed Tuesday that Toffoli, who missed the game against Nashville, will be sidelined for their next two games with a lower-body issue.

Toffoli has not played since the Kings suffered a 3-2 shootout loss to Columbus on Dec. 20. By sitting out the Nashville game, he ended his consecutive-games played streak at 149.

"He's one of those players that plays all situations, which is hard to overcome, but just like any other injury, it's an opportunity for other guys to step up," forward Dustin Brown was quoted by NHL.com.

Toffoli, 24, leads the Kings at plus-14 and has eight goals and 12 assists in 32 games. Winger Devin Setoguchi, who is attempting a comeback from alcohol and drug abuse and scored against Nashville, is expected to take Toffoli's place. Setoguchi skated in place of Toffoli on a line with Tanner Pearson and Jeff Carter in practice Tuesday.

Wednesday's game is the eighth of nine straight road games for the Kings.



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