Los Angeles Kings (-125) at Vancouver Canucks (+113, 5 o/u)
Last year’s Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings (39-25-14, 92 pts), find themselves perilously close to missing out on the 2015 postseason, currently tied for the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference with the Winnipeg Jets.
The Kings are also one point back of (and have a game in hand on) the Calgary Flames, who currently occupy the third and final automatic playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles will look to leapfrog the Flames tonight when they travel to Vancouver to face the Canucks (45-29-5, 95 pts) at Rogers Arena (10:00 p.m. Eastern).
As they did last year, the Kings are making a late push for the postseason, winning five of their last seven including two in a row over Edmonton and Colorado. With just four games left in the regular season, the team knows every point is crucial from here on out.
“We know what’s at stake,” said defenseman Alec Martinez. “A lot of us have been through a very similar situation before, so you can tap into that experience. Every season has its own story, and it’s a little unique. Obviously, this is really down to crunch time, but I’m really confident in the group that we have here. We all know that we can do it.”
Tonight, L.A. will be facing a Vancouver team trending in the opposite direction. The Canucks still sit second in the Pacific Division – two points up on Calgary and three clear of the Kings – but they have lost four of their last six and need two points tonight to keep their rivals at bay.
Vancouver returns home tonight from a tough Eastern Conference road trip, but home ice hasn’t been exceedingly kind to the team this year, with just 21 of the Nucks’ 45 wins coming at Rogers; Vancouver has also lost two straight on home ice.
That said, the squad is happy to back in friendly confines.
“When you have a chance at home, that’s all you can ask for. So we’ve got to make the most of it,” coach Willie Desjardins told the team’s official website. “We have an older group. They know that we need to do it, and we need to find some wins. There are no excuses; we’ve got to find [wins].”
With starting goalie Ryan Miller still recovering from a knee injury, Eddie Lack (16-13-4, .917 SV%, 2.56 GAA) will be between the pipes for Vancouver again tonight. The Kings will counter with former Conn Smythe winner and Vezina runner-up Jonathan Quick (31-21-12, .916 SV%, 2.28 GAA).
With a win and a Winnipeg loss, Vancouver would punch its ticket to the second season. However, the Canucks have lost three of four to L.A. on the year (and seven of the last ten overall); they’re currently +113 home dogs for tonight’s game, while Los Angeles is listed at -125 at the moment. (The over/under is at five goals.)
Though L.A. is always a solid bet in desperate times, getting the Canucks as home dogs looks like the better play.
(Photo credit: Hockey Broad [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)