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Game Day Preview #57, Vancouver Canucks @ Los Angeles Kings

The Kings return home after a promising road trip to face the Canucks, who are, allegedly, a hockey team.

Vancouver Canucks v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

HOW TO WATCH

Game Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Nucks Misconduct

Hey, know who the Vancouver Canucks just lost to?

The Anaheim Ducks. The Canucks were blanked 1-0 by the Ducks, a team which has won three total games since the start of 2019, led by a GM/coach who has never coached before and a goalie making his NHL debut.

nd yet: statistics only sort of give the Kings an edge tonight.

his game is one of those “low hanging fruit” sort of matchups where, much like against the Devils and Rangers, the Kings should be able to push through to a win. Even against better teams like the Bruins and Capitals, the Kings managed to at least look competitive for large portions of the game. So tonight should, theoretically, be a not-so-challenging trip en route to two points and a home-ice victory.

It’s been a tough road trip for the Canucks, though, who in San Jose were forced to call up Michael DiPietro from the WHL, as they are running absurdly thin on goalies due to injuries. The game went about as expected for a kid who went back to juniors afterwards. (The Canucks lost, 7-2.) Jacob Markstrom, healed well enough from whatever kept him out against San Jose, played last night against the Ducks and will most likely get the start tonight, too. Their only other real option is Marek Mazanec, acquired from the New York Rangers in an emergency “oh no we’ve broken all our goalies” trade. Mazanec has yet to play for the Canucks and hasn’t appeared in the NHL at all since the 2016-17 season, where he played four games with Nashville.

Goalie woes aside, the Canucks do have one of the league’s most exciting young players. And despite all of the other issues up and down the Canucks’ lineup, rookie Elias Pettersson has been a treat to watch. He leads the team with 51 points and 25 goals and continues to be their main offensive threat. The drop-off in scoring after Pettersson, Bo Horvat (20 goals, 44 points), and Brock Boeser (19 goals, 38 points) is steep, however. Next on the list is Nikolay Goldobin with just six goals and 25 points, and he’s been in and out of the lineup as a healthy scratch.

Despite the Canucks’ struggles — their 4-5-1 record in the last 10, their cavalcade of injuries, their not-quite-done-yet rebuild — they’re still within striking distance of the playoffs. Their 57 points puts them just out of the second wild card spot (Minnesota holds that with 59 points). The Canucks certainly shouldn’t be buyers this year, but they’re looking better than anyone expected them to.

The Kings, too, shouldn’t be in the business of shooting for the playoffs, no matter how improved they’ve been as of late. While the wins may have been fun—albeit potentially damaging in the pursuit for Jack Hughes—the Kings still find themselves 28th overall in the league standings. After a long road trip where they had to learn to play without Jake Muzzin, and now are reshaping their bottom six in the absence of Nate Thompson, the Kings return home to get in a few more games before Rob Blake starts to sell off other bits and pieces before the trade deadline.

The elevation of Tyler Toffoli to the top line—that’s right, he looks poised to start on Anze Kopitar’s right, bumping Dustin Brown out of his usual spot to play with Mike Amadio and Brendan Leipsic instead—could be seen as possible showcase for the winger, if you listen to trade speculation. Of course, it could also be about giving the hot hand a bigger slice of the action; Toffoli has seven points in his last five games, and 11 in his past 10. In the 10 game stretch prior to that, he had just three points; if you go back further still, Toffoli collected just seven points in 30 games before this 10-game run. He’s finally converting on chances that previously weren’t going in, and so whether it’s about showing other teams what he can do, or giving him a bigger confidence boost by pairing him with Kopitar, well, time will tell.

In other lineup news, Dion Phaneuf comes back out; Sean Walker and Paul LaDue are in. Jeff Carter skated on a line in practice but as a place-filler for Dustin Brown. He’s close to returning, but not quite there yet.

The Kings will honor Sean O’Donnell before tonight’s game as part of their series of Legends Nights.

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