Kings visit Canucks with a shot at NHL lead
Monday, 12.14.2009 / 4:00 PMKINGS (21-10-3) at CANUCKS (18-14-0)
Los Angeles 8-1-1; Vancouver 6-4-0
Beating the Kings has been a challenge for most of the League this season, but the Canucks have already managed it twice. They scored a 2-1 shootout win at the Staples Center on Oct. 29 and won 4-1 on home ice on Nov. 26. The last of their four meetings this season will occur in L.A. on April 1.
The focus in Los Angeles at the start of this season was getting back to the playoffs, somewhere the Kings haven't been since 2002. At the moment, they're not only challenging for the postseason but the best record in the League. The standings as play commences Monday will show L.A. in first place in the Pacific Division by virtue of two more wins than San Jose. Its 45 points are also tied with New Jersey and Pittsburgh, one behind Washington in the early race for the Presidents' Trophy.
Back-to-back shootout wins. Four straight victories. Seven out of eight overall. It's safe to say Los Angeles is rolling. Coach Terry Murray wasn't a fan of the penalty-shot tiebreaker when the Kings lost to the Canucks earlier this season, but after they won in eight rounds against the Coyotes on Thursday and four rounds against the Stars on Saturday, he may have changed his tune just a little.
"I don't know if you could say surprising," goalie Jonathan Quick said. "I knew we had a great team. I knew we had a really good team going into this season. We made some good offseason trades and picked up some guys. I knew, going in, that we were going to have a good club.
"To say that we were going to be first in the conference, at the beginning of the year, that could have been a stretch, but I think the biggest thing for us to do right now is, we can't get too excited about what we've done. We have to (not be) complacent and work and do all the little things that got us up to this point so far. We can't look at the past. We've just got to focus on the next game. It's a long season. We've got 50 games or so left. We just have to keep competing.''
Despite being four games above .500, Vancouver still sits 10th in the Western Conference – it hasn't helped the Canucks that all their losses have come in regulation, so they haven't picked up the consolation points for overtime or shootout defeats a lot of other teams have. They beat Minnesota 4-3 on Saturday for their second straight win and fourth in six games to begin December.
"That was a really hot team coming in here and we saw why they're on such a roll so we'll take these two points and move on," goalie Roberto Luongo
said after the Canucks dealt the Wild just their second regulation loss and third defeat overall in 11 games.
Quick is 7-1-1 with a 2.15 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in his last nine starts for the Kings.
has 15 assists in his last eight games for the Canucks. He has seven multi-assist efforts in eight games, and is tied for second in the League in scoring with 41 points. One of the players taking advantage of all those helpers is Daniel Sedin
, who has five goals in his last three games.
Los Angeles forward Wayne Simmonds will undergo a procedure to remove cartilage from his left knee Monday, after which a timetable for his return will be set. Forward Ryan Smyth is scheduled to return from an upper-body injury after Christmas.
Vancouver defenseman Alexander Edler
is out with an arm injury. Forwards Michael Grabner (broken ankle), Alexandre Bolduc
(shoulder) and Pavol Demitra (shoulder) are all on injured reserve.
With the Capitals, Sharks, Devils and Penguins all idle Monday, a win would vault the Kings into the lead in the NHL standings. The last time they've been first overall more than 10 games into the season was over a decade ago -- Nov. 29, 1999.
"We're where we want to be, but we feel we haven't reached our potential yet. And that's our job -- to go out and find it and really dominate teams, which I know we can," Los Angeles right wing Justin Williams said. "I think we've shown this season that we're an elite team in this conference, and a team that deserves respect."