Kings vs Canucks

Series at a glance: Vancouver-Los Angeles playoff preview

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Schedule

All times are Eastern.

* – if necessary

Wednesday April 11 in Vancouver @ 10:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, CBC)
Friday April 13 in Vancouver @ 10 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, CBC)
Sunday April 15 in Los Angeles @ 10:30 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, CBC)
Wednesday April 18 in Los Angeles @ 10 p.m. (NBC Sports Network, CBC)
*Sunday April 22 in Vancouver @ TBD (TBD)
*Tuesday April 24 in Los Angeles @ TBD (TBD)
*Thursday April 26 in Vancouver @ TBD (TBD)

Three storylines to follow

1. Will Roberto Luongo be on a short leash? Luongo will start in Game 1, but what happens if he has a bad night? What if the Canucks lose two playoff games in a row? Backup Cory Schneider had a 1.96 GAA and .937 save percentage in 33 games this season, so he’s more than qualified to take over if Luongo struggles.

2. Are the Kings a better team than they were two years ago? In 2010, the Canucks beat the Kings in six games in their first-round series. Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, and goaltender Jonathan Quick made up the core of that 2010 squad and they are all still with Los Angeles and closer to their primes. Los Angeles has also added to their top two lines by acquiring Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, although the latter is day-to-day with an ankle injury.

3. The importance of coming out strong. The Canucks have shown an ability to battle back after they’ve fallen behind and Los Angeles largely hasn’t. The Kings had a 8-22-7 record when they surrendered the first goal of the game, which was the third worst in the NHL and particularly troubling given Vancouver’s propensity for scoring first. The Kings also had the second-worst winning percentage when trailing after either one or two periods. By comparison, the Canucks were the most likely team in the NHL to bounce back if they were trailing after one period.

Records

Vancouver: 51-22-9, 111 points (1st in Northwest; 1st in Western Conference) | Los Angeles: 40-27-15, 95 points (3rd in Pacific; 8th in Western Conference)

Leading scorers

Vancouver: Henrik Sedin (14G-67A-81PTS) | Los Angeles: Anze Kopitar (25G-51A-76PTS)

Starting goalies

Vancouver: Roberto Luongo (31-14-8, 2.41 GAA) | Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick (35-21-13, 1.95 GAA)

Head-to-head

Season series tied at 2-2
Nov. 10: Vancouver 3, at Los Angeles 2
Dec. 31: At Los Angeles 4, Vancouver 1
Jan. 17: Los Angeles 3, at Vancouver 2, SO
March 26: At Vancouver 1, Los Angeles 0

Last 10 games

Vancouver: 8-1-1 | Los Angeles: 5-2-3

Playoff history

Series tied 2-2
1982: Vancouver 4-1 (Smythe Division finals)
1991: Los Angeles 4-2 (Smythe Division semifinals)
1993: Los Angeles 4-2 (Smythe Division finals)
2010: Vancouver 4-2 (Western Conference quarterfinals)

2011 playoffs

Vancouver: Def. Chicago 4-3 (Western Conference quarterfinals); def. Nashville 4-2 (Western Conference semifinals); def. San Jose 4-1 (Western Conference finals); lost to Boston 4-3 (Stanley Cup finals) | Los Angeles: Lost to San Jose 4-2 (Western Conference quarterfinals)

Stanley Cups

Vancouver: None | Los Angeles: None

Injuries

Vancouver: Zack Kassian (upper body), Keith Ballard (concussion), Daniel Sedin (concussion), Aaron Volpatti (shoulder), Steve Pinizzotto (shoulder)

Los Angeles: Jeff Carter (ankle), Scott Parse (hip), Kevin Westgarth (hand), Simon Gagne (concussion)

PHT Morning Skate: Jim Craig doesn’t regret selling ‘Miracle on Ice’ memorabilia

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–These parents named their baby girl after Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. (ABC News)

–The  hockey card that helped inspire a Tragically Hip song. (Puck Junk)

–The fan who promised to get a tattoo of Gary Bettman if LA and Chicago were eliminated in the first round kept his word. (Bardown)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Sharks and Blues. (Top)

–Jim Craig doesn’t regret auctioning off most of his “Miracle on Ice” memorabilia. (Yahoo)

–A Q & A with former Quebec Nordiques forward Peter Stastny. (ESPN)

–Former Flyers coach Craig Berube breaks down Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final. (NHL)

Hitch: ‘I see the devastation in our locker room’

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Despite a late comeback attempt, the 2015-16 season came to an end for the St. Louis Blues, as they lost the Western Conference Final in six games to the San Jose Sharks.

And with Wednesday’s loss, the off-season will settle upon the Blues. It will be an intriguing one in St. Louis, starting with their head coach Ken Hitchcock. He’s on a one-year deal and he has already outlined that he’s fine with taking short-term contracts. But is an appearance in the conference final enough to solidify his place behind the St. Louis bench for next year?

The Blues have, according to General Fanager, five pending unrestricted free agent forwards, including Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak, Steve Ott, and most notably Troy Brouwer and David Backes.

Backes, 32, is the team’s captain and coming off a 21-goal, 45-point regular season, which is a decline from the numbers — 26 goals and 58 points — he posted the year before. Brouwer, 30, enjoyed the best post-season of his career, with eight goals and 13 points in 20 games, and he could potentially cash in on that this summer.

However, while there are questions ahead for the Blues, the emotional toll this loss took was clear.

“I see the devastation in our locker room right now. Guys aren’t even able to speak. I’m more worried about our guys right now, to be honest with you. We got some guys that are pretty shook up right now,” said Hitchcock to reporters.

“I’m not going to talk to them for a day or two. They need their space with each other. They’ve bonded together here better than any team I’ve coached in the last 10 years. They need their time together. They don’t need me interrupting them right now. We’ll talk at an appropriate time. But right now they need to be with each other.”

 

Video: So, Joe Thornton is pretty stoked about playing in the Stanley Cup Final

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‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton is off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in his career. The San Jose Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

And yeah, the 36-year-old Thornton, a veteran of 1,367 regular season games with 1,341 career regular season points, is pretty excited for both himself and his team when it comes to this feat.

It hasn’t been easy in San Jose. It hasn’t been easy for the franchise, for the fans, for the players, for Thornton or for Patrick Marleau, who is also 36 years old and has played his entire career (1,411 regular season games) in San Jose.

There have been playoff failures and a regular season disappointment last year. There has been a coaching change and harsh words exchanged between Thornton and management — more specifically, GM Doug Wilson — and an organizational decision to remove the captaincy from Thornton.

After all that, however, the Sharks are four wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Did we mention Joe Thornton is excited about the final?

Franchise history: The Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final

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For the first time in franchise history, the San Jose Sharks are off to the Stanley Cup Final.

This, after a monumental and historical collapse in the first round to the L.A. Kings two years ago. This, after they failed to make the playoffs a year ago, resulting in a coaching change. There have been other post-season disappointments along the way before that, too.

Those difficult times may never be forgotten. But the Sharks have rebounded, and it culminated with a 5-2 victory over the visiting St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final on Wednesday. Fans at SAP Center could feel it, too, especially after Joel Ward scored his second goal of the night, giving San Jose a three-goal lead early in the third period.

The Blues attempted a furious comeback but couldn’t quite complete it.

The Sharks this year have eliminated the Kings, Nashville Predators and now the Blues in that order. They await the winner of the Eastern Conference Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

The Sharks got off to the perfect start in the series clincher versus St. Louis. Joe Pavelski recorded his 13th goal, which leads all players in this post-season, and the Sharks continued to roll from there.

Ward increased the lead in the second period and again in the third. His second of the night proved to be the winner. Joonas Donskoi‘s goal, making it 4-0 San Jose before the midway point of the third period, proved critical as the Blues tried to spark a desperation comeback.

The Blues’ leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko (40 goals, 74 points in the regular season) was held off the score sheet through the first five games of this series, before finally striking for both St. Louis goals in Game 6.