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)

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too.¬†They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.