Western Conference Quarterfinals
Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks at Staples Center, 7 p.m. PT
(Kings lead the best-of-seven series 3-0)
Five storylines to track:
1. History lesson -- Get out your curling brooms; the Kings are going for the sweep. This wouldn’t be a typical sweep, but the first time the top-seeded team in the NHL (or NBA, for that matter) has been swept out of the first round. No easy task, as the Canucks have played better and better as the series has unfolded, and a four-and-out could lead to major changes in the offseason, most likely from the top down. The Kings are already meandering in uncharted waters, as they’ve never held a 3-0 series lead in franchise history. Seems pretty obvious they’d like to take care of business Wednesday night and avoid another trip to Vancouver for Game 5.
2. Game-time decision -- The biggest question heading into Game 4 probably won’t have a definite answer until shortly before game time, but Daniel Sedin, out the past 12 games with a concussion, went through practice Tuesday and skated Wednesday morning at Staples Center, and all indications point to Vancouver's leading goal scorer giving it a go. Sedin is no Sidney Crosby, but he does comprise one of the league’s most dangerous tandems with his twin brother, Henrik. How much Daniel Sedin can contribute is another story. He admitted to being out of shape after sitting out most of the past four weeks and hasn’t had any contact. Cory Schneider also gets his second straight start in goal for Vancouver.
3. Powerless -- The stat that continues to jump off the score sheet is the power-play futility by the Canucks. Or maybe it’s just the dynamic penalty kill by the Kings? Either way, the 0-for-14 by Vancouver has been as key to this series as anything Jonathan Quick or Dustin Brown has accomplished for the Kings. The Canucks were heading in this direction coming into the series. Over their last four games of the regular season, the Canucks went 16 straight power plays without scoring. In the past seven games overall, they're 2-for-34. Having both Sedins on the ice would surely be a boost to that unit.
4. Time to shine -- Jeff Carter is due. He doesn’t have a goal in this series and has gone the past seven games overall without hitting the back of the net. In his past 14 postseason games, he has just two goals. He’s known as a proficient goal scorer, evident by the 144 he put up during the previous four regular seasons, but he’s also building a reputation as someone who disappears in the playoffs, whether on the ice or off in the trainer’s room. Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams also are due to light the lamp this series, but at least they've contributed an assist in each game.
5. Richardson in, Loktionov out -- Kings fourth-line winger Kyle Clifford will be out of action for a third consecutive game after taking a brutal hit from Byron Bitz in Game 1. Bitz, by the way, is available to return after serving his two-game suspension for the illegal hit. Brad Richardson, sidelined since undergoing an emergency appendectomy April 9, is ready to play and will assume Clifford’s spot on the checking line. Andrei Loktionov, who was called up to fill in for Richardson and then for Clifford, will be a healthy scratch. Richardson gives the Kings more speed and mobility than Clifford, and more grit and toughness than Loktionov, so the Kings should be in good shape.