Comfortable at home, Canucks try to turn back Kings

Comfortable at home, Canucks try to turn back Kings

The Vancouver Canucks hope to maintain their stranglehold on first place in the Pacific Division when they continue their season-high, nine-game homestand by hosting the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.V

The Vancouver Canucks hope to maintain their stranglehold on first place in the Pacific Division when they continue their season-high, nine-game homestand by hosting the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.Vancouver is riding a three-game winning streak and getting scoring from some unlikely sources as the Canucks enter the final stretch of the playoff drive. Another factor in their success has been their quick-strike offense, which has seen Vancouver score first in the past seven games, including twice in the opening minute.The Western Conference-leading Canucks (45-18-8, 98 points) are poised to officially punch their ticket to the postseason, and a win Monday would go a long way to making that a reality.Vancouver is winning despite missing its starting goaltender Thatcher Demko (lower-body injury) and a struggling power play that has scored on just two of its previous 18 chances.Backup goaltender Casey DeSmith has filled in nicely while starting the past five games.”I am happy to do my part,” DeSmith said Saturday. “If something happens to ‘Demer’ I have to be ready to step in.”With the power play sputtering, it has been the lesser-known role players such as Nils Hoglander and Nikita Zadorov stepping up and providing the early offense.Hoglander scored the first two goals in a 4-2 win over Calgary on Saturday and rugged defenseman Zadorov did the same against Montreal on Thursday, with two goals in the first period of a 4-1 victory.J.T. Miller and Elias Lindholm also scored Saturday, while Elias Pettersson and Conor Garland each collected two assists. DeSmith made 22 saves.Hoglander opened the scoring only 48 seconds in by redirecting a pass into the net and then added his second on a breakaway, freezing the Calgary goalie Jacob Markstrom with a kick-fake before lifting a backhand high under the crossbar.Pettersson assisted on both goals.Even when they start a game slowly, the Canucks have been able to regroup quickly.”We can struggle the first five minutes, but how quick can we get back to our game? That is the key,” Canucks coach Rick Tocchet said at Friday’s practice. “That has helped us the last week or two. That third period against Montreal, we played really well without the puck. I didn’t see guys trying high-risk plays.”They just locked the game down — that is the attitude you have to have going into the postseason.”

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