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The Canucks will need to get big minutes out of big Shawn Matthias against the Kings Thursday.

The Canucks will need to get big minutes out of big Shawn Matthias against the Kings Thursday.

Times have changed and the franchises have gone in different directions since the Kings ousted the Daniel-less Canucks in 5 games en route to their first Stanley Cup.  The Kings are coming off their second Stanley Cup and have, in some ways, a better roster that helped them take the cup in previous seasons and in other ways one which has grown a little stale.  The Canucks, meanwhile, have rebuilt on the fly, and coach Willie Desjardins has them playing an up-tempo forechecking style of play which keeps opponents defense on alert and their forwards pinned in the neutral zone.

Tale of the Tape

Season Overview
LA VAN
Season Record (NHL Rk) 32-21-13 (17) 38-24-4 (13)
Division Rank 4 2
Conference Rank 9 6
Home Record 21-7-7 18-12-1
Away Record 11-14-6 20-12-3
Division Record 10-4-6 12-8-3
Conference Record 19-9-9 19-15-3
Goals For 180 189
Goals Against 170 179
Streak Won 1 Won 2
WHO’S HOT?
Justin Williams LA
3 pts in last 2 GP
Marian Gaborik LA
4 pts in last 4 GP
Kyle Clifford LA
2 pts in last 2 GP
Brayden McNabb LA
3 pts in last 3 GP
Jake Muzzin LA
3 pts in last 3 GP
WHO’S NOT?
Tyler Toffoli LA
0 pts in last 3 GP
WHO’S HOT?
Radim Vrbata VAN
6 pts in last 5 GP
Daniel Sedin VAN
11 pts in last 10 GP
Dan Hamhuis VAN
5 pts in last 6 GP
Jannik Hansen VAN
11 pts in last 13 GP
Eddie Lack VAN
2-0-0, 1.50, .957 in last 2 GPI
WHO’S NOT?
Alexandre Burrows VAN
0 pts in last 3 GP
Canucks fans are hoping the return of Tanev solidifies their playoff bid.

Canucks fans are hoping the return of Tanev solidifies their playoff bid.

Other Intangibles:

LA:  The Kings talismen are not getting it done as a whole.  Other than Jeff Carter and, lately, Gaborik, who missed some games with an injury, the Kings have had some trouble finding regular contributors on offense.  Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, and the all- but-finished Mike Richards have had trouble finding the back of the net this season. Going into the game vs. the Canucks, who do a pretty good job of shutting down other teams top lines, these players will need to produce.

The win against Colorado was a big one, but the Avs started rookie netminder Calvin Pickard who was pulled in favour of Reto Berra.  While Canucks’ Eddie Lack isn’t exactly Patrick Roy, he is a legitimate NHL caliber goalie, so the Kings will have to be accurate.  Although the Kings have been a little up and down this season, they have a tendency of playing well against the Canucks and are not bothered by having their backs up against any wall, ever.  L.A. is also a very good road team, at least when it matters, have a day’s rest and just finished playing in higher elevation.

doughty kopitar vrbata

Kings’ all-stars haven’t been, while Canucks’ Vrbata has been tremendous.

Vancouver:  Rogers Arena hasn’t been indomitable for the Canucks and they haven’t beaten the Kings all season.  Their record against Pacific teams is only 19-15-3 and the Canucks have traditionally struggled against bigger more physical teams, which the Kings are.  Still, the Canucks have shown signs of becoming more “Kings-like” in recent months, adding younger legs and bigger bodies throughout the lineup.

Some of those legs and bodies are playing quite well for the team, as in the case of the Dorsett, Matthias and Horvat line.  They’re not setting the NHL on fire exactly, but Desjardins is getting timely production and using them in big minutes.  As well, the Canucks have assembled a formidable back line of stay-at-home defenders who take no prisoners and make sound hockey plays.  The wins against San Jose and Anaheim in the last week are much bigger character-builders than wins against the Avalanche and Oilers in a two week period which saw the Kings go 3W-4L.

The Canucks would love it if Alex Burrows could find the net again.

The Canucks would love it if Alex Burrows could find the net again.

Advantage Canucks:  Even though the Kings have a tendency of producing big wins when they need them the most, Thursday’s game feels like a Canucks win.  The key scorers for Vancouver have been consistent, while the supporting lines do what they’re supposed to do.  The Canucks are getting healthy at the right time, though they are still missing key D-man Kevin Bieksa.

More importantly the Canucks mental health has improved dramatically since the January 1st loss to Los Angeles while the Kings, say what they will, have been a little shaky.  As the Canucks younger players begin to arrive now, the Kings key pieces are slumping at the wrong time. The traditional size mismatch still favours the Kings but is not as dramatic as before.  This game will be close, but the Canucks should have enough to get their first win of the season vs. the defending champs and all their hubris.

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