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canucks_df

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For those nocturnal Canucks fans (this is being posted at midnight!) who just can't wait 'til Thursday morning for the Game Notes, here's a sneak peak at the scouting report against the Los Angeles Kings.

The Los Angeles Kings came into this season believing they would be contenders for a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference and through the first month-and-a-half of the season, they are exactly where they expected to be right in the thick of the playoff hunt.

However, for a team that relies on their offensive firepower to win games on most nights, the next month could turn out to be make-or-break for the Kings' fortune this season as that is the period they will have to survive without their second-leading goal scorer in Ryan Smyth who they recently lost to an unspecified upper-body injury. Even without Smyth, the Kings aren't exactly lacking in offensive talent.

Slovenian sniper Anze Kopitar has spent most of the season near or at the top of the NHL leading scorers list but will be forced to adjust his game slightly by relying more on his "other" winger in Justin Williams to pick up some of the scoring slack on the top line in Smyth's absence. Their second line trio has chipped in their fair share as well with Jarret Stoll (currently out with lower body injury - day-to-day), Dustin Brown, and Alexander Frolov combining for 19 goals on the season while their blue-liners have accounted for 11 goals on the campaign with sophomore Drew Doughty leading the way with six tallies.

The offence has been sputtering somewhat, however, with the absence of Smyth. In the last three games since Smyth has been out, the Kings have scored a combined seven goals - one of them being into an empty net. Kopitar, in particular, has been going through a dry spell as he comes into tonight's contest having not scored in his last seven straight games.

Preventing goals has been the biggest struggle for the Kings through the first quarter of the season.

The Kings have surrendered among the most goals this season (2.96 goals against per game - sixth worst in the NHL) which when combined with the fact they have actually been one of the best teams this season in terms of preventing shots against (26 shots against average per game - second lowest in the NHL) seems to suggest that perhaps a good chunk of the blame for their defensive shortcomings should be shouldered by their netminders.

Starter Jonathan Quick has surrendered three-or-more goals in 14 of 23 games played this season, including in six of his last eight games, while his save percentage sits below .900 although he still has a very respectable 13-8-2 record on the season. He did have a very solid game in Edmonton last night making 23 saves on 24 shots in a 3-1 Kings victory.

With tonight's game being a back-to-back scenario, the Kings could opt to take a page out of the Blackhawks' book and start back-up Erik Ersberg against the Canucks although that seems to be a long shot. The Kings have been very hesitant to use Ersberg this season despite the fact he appeared in 28 contests last season. Ersberg has started just twice this season, with his last action coming on November 13th in a relief appearance in Atlanta where he gave up four goals on seven shots in what was a 7-0 loss by the Kings to the Thrashers.

For the complete Canucks.com Tale of the Tape preview, click here. (updated on the morning of each game)

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