CANUCKS at KINGS
(Los Angeles leads best-of-seven series, 3-0)
TV: CBC, NBCSN, RDS
Big Story: Will Daniel Sedins return?
Out since March 21 with a concussion, the Canucks' top goal scorer and last season's Art Ross Trophy winner as the League's leading scorer missed the first three games of the series but flew to Los Angeles for practice Tuesday and could play Game 4 on Wednesday night.
If Sedin plays – he's officially listed as a game-time decision -- the next questions are how much, and how effective he can be after missing close to a month since Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith elbowed him in the head? Sedin admitted after practice he's not in top physical shape after being unable to exercise, and the already-stingy Kings promised not to let up physically against him.
"I haven't been able to work out and my shape is probably about as slow as it's been in five years," Sedin said. "I really wanted to be back for the playoffs, but my main concern was getting back to 100 per cent. It's probably been the toughest time mentally that I've been through. I'm just happy to be back."
Vancouver will certainly welcome Sedin back to a power play that is 0-for-14 in the series and given up two shorthanded goals, but the special teams problems predated his injury. And while Daniel's return should also boost twin brother Henrik, who has struggled without his doppelganger, the Canucks are shaking up their lines yet again, moving David Booth
onto the opposite wing in place of usual linemate Alexandre Burrows
after only scoring four goals in three games.
It's an interesting mix; one that coach Alain Vigneault cautioned may not stick come game time. But even adding Daniel to it may not be enough against a Kings team playing well in front of near-perfect goaltender Jonathan Quick.
"We'll see," Daniel said. "Hopefully I can play on the power play and be a bit of a difference there and maybe chip in 5-on-5, too."
Canucks: Vancouver may get its top goal scorer, back but there's no guarantee its supposed No.1 goaltender will be back between the pipes. Vigneault still had not told his goalies who was playing Game 4 after Cory Schneider
replaced starter Roberto Luongo
for Game 3. It wasn't that Luongo played poorly in the first two contests – he was Vancouver's best player to keep them in Game 1 and his .951 save percentage at even strength is among the playoff leaders – but Schneider was just as sharp in his start, surrendering the only goal to a wide open Dustin Brown on a skipping shot rebound off the pads.
The decision on who starts Game 4 will be analyzed all summer if the Canucks lose, with Luongo just two years into a 12-year, $64-million contract with a no-trade clause and plenty of interest in the up-and-coming Schneider.
Vigneault said he'll choose the goaltender that gives his team the best chance to win Game 4. But he has to know his decision could echo all summer.
Kings: Los Angeles finds itself in new territory trying to win a playoff series for the first time since 2001. The Kings have never led a playoffs series 3-0, and with just three even-strength goals to get to this point, know there are still places they can improve their 5-on-5 game offensively. At the other end, however, there is little to improve, even if they have been outshot 79-35 the last five periods.
Despite lopsided shot totals, the Kings actually out-chanced Vancouver in Game 4, keeping the Canucks skill players on the perimeter, taking away most second chances in tight, and getting big saves the half-dozen times they were needed.
Who's Hot: Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick. The Kings' captain scored into an empty net in Game 1, and added a pair of shorthanded goals and an assist on the winner in Game 2, and scored the only goal of Game 3. His line with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams has already combined for 11 points despite facing a regular checking line matchup against shutdown center Samuel Pahlsson
As good as the Kings' top line has been, their No.1 goalie has been better. Quick has stopped 111 of 115 shots for a .965 save percentage, and his Game 3 shutout was his 11th of the season, continuing a regular-season trend of staying calm – and often perfect – when the puck wasn't going in at the other end.
Injury Report: Daniel Sedin
is a game-time decision. … Los Angeles forward Brad Richardson is expected to return from an appendectomy nine days earlier, and will replace call up Andrei Loktionov. Kyle Clifford is still out after being injured in Game 1 by a hit from behind by Canucks forward Byron Bitz
, who is eligible to return Wednesday from a two-game suspension for that hit. … The Kings have also been without scoring forward Simon Gagne (concussion) since December.
Stat Pack: If the Canucks plan on coming back in the series, they better not fall behind in Game 4. The Kings are 86-0-9 over the past two regular seasons when leading after two periods, and have only given up one third-period goal to the Canucks while scoring five in this series. … It helps, of course, that the Canucks are struggling so mightily to score. The goal droughts among Vancouver's top-six forwards include no goals in 15 games for Ryan Kesler
, one in 14 games for Booth, one in nine for Mason Raymond
, and one in 26 for Henrik Sedin
Puck Drop: First, the Canucks will try to avoid becoming the first ever Presidents' Trophy-winning team to be swept out of the first round. If they can do that, the next step is trying to become the fourth team in the last three seasons to erase a 3-0 hole and force a Game 7, something they know well after allowing Chicago off the floor in the first round last season. Beyond that they are trying to become just the fourth NHL team ever to complete that comeback and win a series.
"We're faced with a very tough task," Vigneault said. "I believe that we need to start this task by winning one period and if we win one period, we’ll focus on the next period. We really have to have a narrow, short, focused mindset right now and we'll be talking about that for the next couple of days."