Canucks game day: Possible playoff clincher tonight as LA Kings visit Vancouver

Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
3 months ago
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The Vancouver Canucks (45-18-8) can reach the 100 point mark and clinch their first playoff berth in four years tonight when they host the Los Angeles Kings (37-22-11) in a 6pm start at Rogers Arena. The Canucks have won three straight, are 7-1-1 in their last nine games and enter play atop the Pacific Division with 98 points on the season. 
UPDATE: Rick Tocchet told the media late Monday afternoon that Elias Lindholm will not play tonight. He is listed as day to day with an undisclosed injury. Despite scoring an empty net goal in Saturday’s 4-1 win against Calgary, Lindholm missed his second straight practice yesterday as the team tries to figure out the best course of treatment. 
At Sunday’s practice, Pius Suter slid into Lindholm’s spot at centre on a line with Vasily Podkolzin and Nils Aman. If that’s how the Canucks skate tonight, the team will once again be without a right-handed centre.
One line that won’t be touched is Elias Pettersson between Nils Höglander and Conor Garland. Höglander scored the first two goals of the game on Saturday and that line combined for six points. 
JT Miller’s third period power play goal was the game winner and helped the Canucks scoring leader reach the 90 point mark for the second time in three seasons. Quinn Hughes picked up an assist on the goal and hit 80 points for the first time in his career. 
Casey DeSmith will make his sixth straight start in goal. He is 4-1-1 with a 1.84 GAA and a .917 save percentage this month. Veteran Ian Cole is expected to draw back into the line-up tonight after missing the last two games due to a minor injury.
Canucks penalty killers have successfully killed off 10 straight short-handed situations over the past four games since Colorado scored on a power play in overtime on March 13th. That’s the only game in the last nine the Canucks have allowed a goal while short handed. Their PK is 16 for 18 (88.9%) this month.
The Canucks have opened the scoring in seven straight games. They have outscored visitors 10-0 in first periods in the first six games of the club’s current nine-game homestand. The last opponent to hit the scoreboard first was the Kings on March 5th at Crypto.com Arena.
Los Angeles arrives in town on the heels of a 4-3 overtime victory against Tampa Bay on Saturday night. Vladislav Gavrikov scored the winner just 25 seconds into OT. The Kings have won three in a row and four of their last five as they try to reel in Edmonton in the race for second in the Pacific. They head into action tonight three points back of the Oilers and two in front of fourth place Vegas.
Trevor Moore scored his team leading 26th goal of the season against the Bolts. The Kings have a three-way tie for the team lead in scoring as Kevin Fiala, Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe all have 62 points. 
Kopitar recorded the 1200th point of his NHL career last week against Minnesota. At 1203, he is two points shy of matching Vincent Damphousse for 50th in all-time league scoring. Tonight Kopitar is set to skate in the 1363rd game of his career which will leave him tied with Jeremy Roenick for 53rd in all time games played.
The Kings are the third best defensive team in the NHL and have the best penalty killing in the league (85.6%). Three of their last five wins have been by shutout (over the New York Islanders, Chicago and Minnesota). David Rittich has two of them while Cam Talbot registered the other. Talbot gets the nod in net tonight.
These teams have split their first two meetings of the year each winning in the other team’s building. The Kings prevailed 5-1 at Rogers Arena on February 29th while the Canucks posted a 2-1 overtime win in Los Angeles on March 5th. The teams will meet one more time in the regular season on April 6th in Southern California.
Tonight’s referees: Chris Lee & Tom Chmielewski

What we heard

JT Miller on breaking down the Kings tight defensive structure: “We competed and executed way better in LA. We didn’t play well against them here. They outbattled us and we let their structure frustrate us and I think that led to a lot of poor decisions. We know they’re a good, well-structured team, and that’s out of our hands. We just have to worry about playing fast, try not to let them get set up as much as possible and play to our strengths. We’ve proved that when we do that we can play with anybody.”
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