Kings-Canucks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 01, 2013
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.
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