CANUCKS at KINGS
(Los Angeles leads series 2-0)
TV: NBCSN (HD), CBC, RDS (HD)
Big Story: The Kings are heading home with a two-game lead thanks to their prowess on special teams. The Canucks are 0-for-10 on the power play and gave up two shorthanded goals in Game 2. Meanwhile the Kings have scored three goals on 12 advantages, and another shortly after a power play expired. Vancouver contends it is happy with its 5-on-5 play, and Los Angeles players are looking for more at even strength. But if the Canucks don't improve on special teams, their postseason could be over quickly.
Canucks: Coach Alain Vigneault wouldn't confirm it, but there were plenty of signs Vancouver will turn to backup Cory Schneider in Game 3 despite some solid - and in Game 1 at least, often spectacular - goaltending from starter Roberto Luongo. If nothing else, it's a change -- and the Kings have never faced Schneider, who finished the regular season with the second-best save percentage in the NHL (.937) and was third in goals-against average (1.96).
More important, the Canucks seemed to prepare Schneider for this possibility with big starts in Boston and Chicago this season -- and kept him ready by splitting the playing time with Luongo down the stretch and heading into the playoffs. His only playoff start was in Game 6 in the first round against Chicago last playoffs, when he was forced to leave early after cramping up during a penalty shot.
"I would feel pretty comfortable," he said. "I had a taste of it last year, I know what to expect. No real surprise for me, just try to play the way I played all year."
Kings: Los Angeles hasn't won a playoff series since 2001, but the Kings were saying all the right things after taking a 2-0 lead with back-to-back wins in Vancouver. They talked about improving their play five 5-on-5 and relying heavily on special teams during a pair of 4-2 wins, scoring five of eight that way. But mostly they talked about hitting reset before hosting Game 3, about not getting too far ahead of themselves and approaching the next game the same way they did the first.
"We definitely have room for improvement, we definitely have better, without a doubt," goalie Jonathan Quick said. "But we have to reload and get ready."
Captain Dustin Brown echoed those sentiments.
"It's important for us to understand where we're at and hit the reset button," he said. "[Vancouver] dominated the last two regular seasons and majority of the last playoffs so I'm sure they've faced tougher situations than being down 2-0."
Who's Hot: Brown, the Kings' captain, scored into an empty net in Game 1, and added a pair of shorthanded goals in Game 2 on Friday night. For a while he was the first Los Angeles player since Wayne Gretzky in 1993 to record a playoff hat trick, but the goal was later changed to Jarret Stoll, with Brown settling for an assist on what turned out to be the game-winner. He finished with a share of the NHL record for shorthanded goals in a playoff game, and left linemate Anze Kopitar at a loss for words to accurately describe his performance.
"English is my second language, I can't find enough," Kopitar said.
Injury Report: Vancouver is still without top goal scorer Daniel Sedin, who has been out with a concussion since March 21 didn't travel with the team to Los Angeles. … Los Angeles forward Brad Richardson skated Saturday after an appendectomy Monday, but seems unlikely to return for Game 3 in place of Andrei Loktionov, who is in after Kyle Clifford was injured by a Game 1 hit from behind that earned Canucks forward Byron Bitz a two-game suspension. … The Kings have also been without Simon Gagne (concussion) since late December.
Stat Pack: The Canucks don't have to look any further than the Boston Bruins last season for inspiration when it comes to overcoming consecutive home-ice losses to open the playoffs. Boston did just that against Montreal in the first round last year - and lost the first two of the Cup Final in Vancouver - before rallying to win it all. But the Canucks are more likely to hear about a different kind of history -- the five teams that have been eliminated in the first round after winning the Presidents' Trophy, including the Washington Capitals two seasons ago, the San Jose Sharks the year before that, and Detroit in 2005-06.
"This group has been through so much in the past, and with that experience composure in my mind should not be an issue," Vigneault said. "It's definitely not an issue 5-on-5, but it seems to be an issue on the power play. That being said, on the power play our guys are such elite players that I'm thinking they should be able to get their nerves under control and do the right thing."
Puck Drop: There was a lot of talk from the Canucks about keeping composure following Game 1, and for the most part they did so in the rematch on Friday night. But after the Kings went up 4-1, there were several signs of frustration from a Vancouver team expected to contend for the Stanley Cup.
That frustration only figures to increase if things go badly early in Game 3.
"It's important, if we are starting to frustrate them, to play between the whistles and stay away from that stuff," Brown said. "Our PK has been good but keep on giving them opportunity after opportunity they are going to make us play."