Thursday, March 31, 2011
Kings: Vancouver still has reason to win
By Dan Arritt
Kings (44-26-6, 94 points) vs. Vancouver Canucks (51-17-9, 111) at Rogers Arena, 7 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Reason to win – Just because the Canucks have clinched the No. 1 playoff seeding in the Western Conference doesn’t mean they don’t have any extra motivation to beat the Kings. Vancouver still needs to clinch its first-ever President’s Trophy, which is awarded to the team with the best overall record at the end of the regular season. The Canucks can clinch with a victory against the Kings and a loss Thursday by East leader Philadelphia against visiting Atlanta.
2. Brown steps up – Nobody was closer to Anze Kopitar than Dustin Brown. They’re the only players remaining from the 2006-07 team. They’ve played on the same line for hundreds of shifts and their lockers sit side by side. So when Kopitar went down with a season-ending ankle injury Saturday against Colorado, it’s no surprise that one of the first players to elevate his game in Kopitar’s absence was Brown, who scored both goals in a 2-0 victory Tuesday in Edmonton.
3. Lewis to the rescue? – Another player who has risen the level of his game almost from the minute Kopitar went down is center Trevor Lewis. The Kings have scored four goals in the four-plus periods since Kopitar was injured and Lewis was involved in every one. Lewis, the 17thoverall pick in 2006, had a goal and an assist in the third period of the 4-1 victory against the Avalanche, and assisted on both of Brown’s goals against the Oilers. Remember, nobody knew who Tom Brady was until Drew Bledsoe got injured.
4. Coming home – Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell grew up on Vancouver Island and was a big fan of the Canucks while growing up. He spent the previous four seasons with Vancouver, twice getting recognized as the team’s top defender. He has been flashing some offense recently too, scoring in two of the last three games to establish a new career high with five goals this season. The Kings are 20 games over .500 with Mitchell in the lineup this season.
5. Vancouver injury news – The Canucks have been hit hard by injuries this season but have held up nicely. The latest injury has been a tough pill to swallow, however. Manny Malhotra, a gritty two-way forward with exceptional face-off skills, was struck in the left eye with the puck March 16 against the Avalanche and underwent successful surgery Tuesday to save the eye. Malhotra, who is married to the sister of Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash, will not be back this season.