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Canucks game day: At long last, a look at the Los Angeles Kings — the first of several in the weeks ahead

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Photo credit:© Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
1 month ago
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On the final day of February – a bonus day at that in a leap year – the Vancouver Canucks (38-16-7) get their first look of the season at division rival Los Angeles Kings (29-19-10). 
Two of the next three and four of the next 16 for the Canucks will be against the Kings. And with the standings the way they are, a first round playoff match-up – and as many as seven more games in the opening round – is a distinct possibility. In other words, get used to seeing plenty of the Kings. There is a world in which the Canucks could face the Kings in 11 of their next 28 games.
The Canucks will try to bounce back from Tuesday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Pittsburgh. The club has dropped five of its last six games (1-4-1). JT Miller remains red-hot since the All Star break. He had a short-handed goal and an assist on Tuesday, has been in on seven of the last nine goals the Canucks have scored and has nine goals in his last 12 games. 
Brock Boeser has scored three goals in his last two games including power play goals in each outing. Boeser is up to 34 goals on the season. Nils Höglander scored the Canucks other goal against the Penguins.
Newcomer Elias Lindholm has 0+1=1 and eight shots in his last six games after registering 4+1=5 with 13 shots in his first six games after being acquired from Calgary. 
At an optional morning skate today, we saw Carson Soucy take to the ice. He will meet with doctors later today and is close to returning. At practice Wednesday, the team skated with the same forward lines and power play groups used against the Penguins. However, Noah Juulsen was paired on defence with captain Quinn Hughes while Filip Hronek skated alongside Nikita Zadorov so they may have new looks on the blueline.
Rick Tocchet once again stressed the need for his team to stop taking so many penalties. The Canucks were short-handed five times against Pittsburgh and have been short-handed a league-high 45 times since the All Star break. Their penalty killing is 75.6% and 21st in the league over that span. On the season, the Canucks PK is 79.0% and 19th in the NHL.
The Kings arrive here holding down the top Wild Card spot in the West, but tied in points with Nashville. They also limp into town after back to back losses in Alberta. They fell 4-2 in Calgary on Tuesday after a same score setback in Edmonton on Monday. In the game against the Oilers, LA lost forward Adrian Kempe with an upper body injury. He has returned to Southern California for further evaluation and is out indefinitely.
Kempe leads the Kings with 51 points and is second on the team with 19 goals. So his absence will be felt. Trevor Moore is the team leader with 22 goals on the season. Without Kempe, Kevin Fiala (17+32=49) tops the team scoring race while Anze Kopitar (17+31=48) is right behind. Third year power forward Quinton Byfield is having a breakout season with 18+26=44 through 56 games.
Even at the age of 34, Drew Doughty leads the NHL in average ice time per game logging 26:02. The veteran blueliner is tied for sixth among all d-men with 13 goals on the season.
The Kings fired long-time head coach Todd McLellan at the All-Star break and promoted Port Alberni native Jim Hiller from his post as an assistant. Hiller once coached the Chilliwack Bruins of the Western Hockey League. The Kings are 6-4 in Hiller’s first 10 games calling the shots.
Los Angeles is the second best defensive team in the Western Conference and third overall in the league averaging 2.67 goals against per game behind Winnipeg and Florida.
The Kings are 18-9-4 on the road this season after winning their first 11 games as the visitors.
These teams will meet again next Tuesday at Crypto.com Arena. They will also face-off on March 25th in Vancouver and April 6th in Los Angeles.
Rick Tocchet spoke about playing the Kings for the first time this late in the season, and facing them four times over the next 16 games:
“We haven’t faced a few teams in our division, it is strange. Good hockey team, it’s going to be a tough game for us. It puts you in playoff mode. There’s eight points available, there’s a lot at stake when you play your division teams. Whether you’re chasing or trying to stay above, it doesn’t really matter, they’re four important games.”
Tocchet confirmed that Thatcher Demko will get the start once again tonight. Puck drop is at 7 PM. You can read yesterday’s Scenes from Canucks practice by clicking here.

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