Canucks Army GDT #14 – Canucks @ Kings

After escaping Northern California with a stolen two points, Vancouver is back in action tonight looking to avoid a moral victory against the L.A. Kings. The Canucks enter L.A. with a 10-4-0 record, and just two points back of the Anaheim Ducks for 1st place in the entire NHL. A win over the always tough Kings tonight will set up a first-place showdown with the Ducks tomorrow, so Vancouver should be motivated to come out and put forth a better effort than Thursday night in San Jose.

Read past the jump for a preview of tonight’s action.

Broadcast Info

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM PST

TV: CBC

Radio: TSN 1040

Lineups

Defensive Pairings
Alexander Edler 
Alexander Edler
Chris Tanev 
Chris Tanev
Ryan Stanton 
Ryan Stanton
Kevin Bieksa 
Kevin Bieksa
Dan Hamhuis 
Dan Hamhuis
Luca Sbisa 
Luca Sbisa

Zack Kassian is out with a leg injury. Brad Richardson is a game time decision with an undisclosed injury. Nicklas Jensen will likely draw into the lineup for the first time this year. Radim Vrbata is also questionable. No word if Miller or Lack will get the start in goal.

Defensive Pairings
Jake Muzzin 
Jake Muzzin
Drew Doughty 
Drew Doughty
Brayden McNabb 
Brayden McNabb
Matt Greene 
Matt Greene
Jordan Nolan 
Jordan Nolan
Alec Martinez 
Alec Martinez

Robyn Regehr is doubtful for tonight’s game. Salary cap situation means L.A. will have to dress 5 defensemen and 13 forwards. Justin Williams will return from an eye injury. Jonathan Quick is expected to start in goal.

Preview

For a team that’s been the model for puck possession hockey since Darryl Sutter took over as head coach, the Los Angeles Kings have been strangely mediocre this season. Their top-end possession players like Kopitar, Doughty, Muzzin, and Williams are still top-end possession players, but the Kings themselves rank 18th in the NHL in raw Corsi (50.6%) and 19th in score-adjusted Fenwick (49.1%). The reason for this looks to be two-fold: one, the bottom end of their roster isn’t performing like an elite puck possession group so far this season, and two, this group is getting proportionately more ice time than they have in the past.

As Corey Pronman points out, Jarret Stoll is playing more than any other Kings C on a per game basis so far, and he’s been terrible. Giving Anze Kopitar some of his ES ice time back should in itself improve the Kings 5-on-5 play on the whole, but it won’t fix whatever’s ailing Stoll and the rest of the lower end of L.A.’s roster.

Offensively, the Kings are riding the Pearson-Carter-Toffoli line (if you see anyone on Twitter referring to them as “That 70’s Line,” block that person and report them for spam), but much of their early success is a bit of a mirage. Toffoli and Carter have on-ice shooting percentages well over 12%, and Pearson is at 11.76% himself. All three also have PDO’s around 1100, so their goal differential is due to come crashing back down towards 50% and away from the 90% rate they’ve been seeing early on. Long in short, when Doug MacLean or P.J. Stock inevitably try to make the argument that they’re the best line in hockey tonight, they’re wrong.

On the Canucks side of things, both Brad Richardson and Zack Kassian will likely miss tonight’s game, meaning Bo Horvat and Nicklas Jensen will take their places on the third line. Horvat will play his 3rd game of the year out of the 9 he’s allowed before a year of his contract is burnt, and Jensen will make his season debut. Jensen is tied for 4th on the 1st place Comets in scoring this season with 6 points in 11 games, and tied for the team lead in goals and shots with Brandon DeFazio, at 4 and 31 respectively. His counting stats aren’t great, but he should be able to keep his head above water in the NHL.

It will be interesting to see how much ice time the Matthias-Horvat-Jensen trio is afforded under Willie Desjardins, especially since Desjardins has been hesitant to give Bo Horvat a lot of time in his two games with Vancouver so far. One would think that even though they’re listed as the third line, the Dorsett-Vey-Hansen group will see the ice more than them tonight, but another wrench may be thrown into things if Radim Vrbata is in fact injured and can’t go tonight either.

If this is the case, I’d expect Burrows to slide up to line 1, while either Jannik Hansen or Linden Vey take Burrows’ place on line 2 with Yannick Weber drawing into the lineup as a 4th line winger, as he did at times last season.

  • Cool Story, Brodie!!!

    Everyone may be pointing to the Ducks and Kesler as the big game, but tonight’s game is the real Big game.

    Living in LA I was at both Canucks games last year and the Canucks tried to play LAs game and lost both times, although close. They tried to out tough a tough team and just had a break down or two that cost them the losses. The fights and rough stuff was fun to watch, but it really took the Canucks off their game in a season in which they were off their game collectively.

    Quick will give up some goals, but makes big saves and the big power forwards will try and wear down the Canucks. The Canucks can’t try to out skate fast teams or out tough big teams, they need to play like a four line team and take advantage of the Kings break downs and penalties .

    Of course let’s hope Miller stays and the face offs improve. Losing draws in our own end won’t work vs LA. Like I said, the Canucks play better as a four line team that comes in waves and creates chances off mistakes.

    Come on boys, I have a bet with my class at school Monday the Canucks win!

    Go Canucks go!

  • Cool Story, Brodie!!!

    Now Richardson is out, too? When did this happen? I feel like the Canucks have managed to summon injury problems out of thin air the past couple of games. Kassian’s injury came out of absolutely nowhere, Bonino was randomly beat enough to miss practice, I can’t fathom when Vrbata would have dinged himself up and now Richardson is suddenly and inexplicably a no-go?

    I’m okay with Jensen in, as I thought he probably deserved a roster spot more than Horvat out of camp, but it’s perturbing to see these LBI’s seemingly just appearing when the team’s been rolling along so nicely. I suppose better that they’re in a position to handle the potential stumbles that will result from the man games missed.

    Incidentally, on the Doug MacLean comment… yeah I’m with you. How in the seven hells did that guy ever GM a team? I sort of forgive PJ Stock for not knowing anything; you don’t need to KNOW a whole lot about hockey in order to play it well – but good lord Maclean is dense. No wonder the Jackets were so bad for so long.

  • Cool Story, Brodie!!!

    Well this game was like when Cinderella’s pumpkin coach exploded like a pipe bomb and there will be no ball tonight or ever folks.

    The kings are 5 times the team the Canucks will ever be, judging by this score. Well there’s only one thing left for Canucks die-hards to do in a situation like this….get out the wallet and buy some more tickets and pipe dreams.

    #mayorrobertsonwearslingerieoneridingabike