Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Kings: Looking to get back on track in Vancouver
By Dan Arritt
Kings (22-15-9, 53 points) vs. Vancouver Canucks (28-15-3, 59 points) at Rogers Arena, 7 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Reverting to form – For a night anyway, the Kings reverted back to their old selves Sunday in Edmonton, scoring once in a 2-1 overtime loss to the slumping Oilers. Prior to that hiccup, the Kings had scored 13 goals in the previous three games and were close to emerging from the cellar in league-wide scoring. The players can be excused for their latest effort, as they were playing the second game in two nights with travel in between. They won’t have any excuses if they don't get up for this game. After all, it’s the Canucks.
2. Grudge match – The Kings played their best overall game under coach Darryl Sutter when Vancouver came to L.A. on Dec. 31. Anze Kopitar scored his first goal in 17 games that night, and Justin Williams and Brad Richardson also broke out of scoring slumps. Kopitar and Williams remain hot. Kopitar has scored a goal in three consecutive games and Williams has two goals and four assists in his last four. Now if the Kings can just get defenseman Drew Doughty playing near his level from two years ago, they might go somewhere.
3. Getting dinged – Still one of the top penalty killers in the league, the Kings have slipped a bit lately. They’ve allowed a power-play goal in each of the last three games and the two against Edmonton really hurt. Jeff Green, a former first-round draft pick of the Kings, scored with the man advantage in the opening period and Taylor Hall won the game in overtime with a power-play goal. As the league's third-ranked team on the penalty kill, the Kings will face a tough test against Vancouver, owner of the league’s top-ranked power-play unit.
4. D-men challenge – Kings defenseman Matt Greene scored his third goal of the season in a 4-1 win Saturday night in Calgary, a career high for the 28-year-old Michigan native. He’s tied with Doughty in goals and one up on fellow shut-down defender Willie Mitchell, who keeps a friendly tally with Greene and Rob Scuderi. Mitchell might have more incentive to get on the board against the Canucks, as he previously played in Vancouver and still keeps a summer home in British Columbia.
5. Bounce back game – The Canucks are coming off one of their worst efforts in a long time, losing to the Ducks, 4-2, on Sunday night. Vancouver was due for a letdown, having just returned from a four-game road trip and playing their 16th game in 31 days. The loss cost the Canucks the top spot in the Western Conference standings. Don’t expect the team to string together two duds in a row. There’s too much pride in that locker room.