Since we last met the Vancouver Canucks...
Enemy Reading: Nucks Misconduct
Lineups in the last practice:
The Kings have quietly gone about preparing for any possible lineup changes, and now the Canucks' secrecy games seem just about over: Schneider's in, and apparently so is Daniel Sedin. As he did not travel with the team for Game 3, it doesn't appear that rushing him back was ever in the game plan. He did not receive contact in practice yesterday, and he described himself as "out of shape" after missing four weeks of action. The Vancouver press is raising questions as to whether he's really prepared. Sedin and the Canucks are, unquestionably, taking a risk. It remains to be seen if he will take regular shifts, or play a limited role and join the power play; but for now, it seems Daniel will join the ranks of Brent Seabrook and many others who have hastened back from concussions when a series is on the line.
Brad Richardson will re-join the Kings tonight. LA knows they need to have the puck more often in Game 4, and the speedy winger may be able to help: while Richardson was on the ice, the Kings averaged 14 more shots/60 minutes at even strength than when he was off it. When Clifford and then Loktionov went down, Sutter had to deal with a shorter bench. We will see if he increases the fourth line's minutes to former levels.
Both Kopitar and Richards are tasked with out-chancing Vancouver's top lines head to head, as well as taking on a heavy load of defensive-zone faceoffs. Though they were out-shot, Kopitar (+5) and Brown (+3) managed to come out ahead in grade-A chances at even strength, while Richards (-3) did not. The Kings need to be better at faceoffs overall (just 46% in the series thus far), but d-zone draws were encouraging. Richards beat Kesler several times in the crucial, waning moments of the third. Both lines must push the play in the o-zone more often this time around.
Vancouver's desperation in game 3 was palpable. Their aggressive forechceck succeeded in hemming the Kings in their own zone, even if LA's defense kept them largely at the perimeter. I expect the Canucks to pull anything, legal or illegal, to try to avoid a sweep tonight. Holding the fort won't be good enough. We'll see if the Kings are ready to push back.