There is but one late game in the NHL Saturday night: the Vancouver Canucks versus the Los Angeles Kings. It's a showdown of two of the Western Conference's top teams, but more than that, it's a battle for third place in the Pacific Division.
That's a pretty big deal for the Canucks, who have been chasing the three California teams seemingly all season, and could finally leapfrog one of them with a win Saturday, thanks to a 10-1-2 December that coincided nicely with some recent struggles in Los Angeles. The Kings have dropped five straight.
It's also Darryl Sutter's 1000th game, a fact that was met with a pretty great quip from Willie Mitchell. "We don't need old coaches being slow coaches for us out there," he told Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider. "Better have some fresh legs tonight."
But the real story of this game is in goal, where both clubs could be getting their starting netminders back after some time without.Roberto Luongo will start for the Canucks. He hasn't played since December 22nd, when he tweaked his groin and removed himself from a game versus the Winnipeg Jets.
At the other end, Jonathan Quick is a likelihood, although Darryl Sutter has yet to make his return to the L.A. crease official. The last goalie off the ice at practice is normally the one who starts, but Quick and Martin Jones left the ice at the same time, (so as to preserve the mystery!!!). If Quick feels good after the pregame skate, it'll likely be him.
And that would be pretty great, because the story in goal would be more than just two goalies trying to get back into it after some time away: it would be a potential showdown of the starting goalie for Team Canada and Team USA in Sochi. (Well, as much of a showdown as you can have between two guys standing hundreds of feet apart.)
Quick has already been named to the American team, and will be part of the primary tandem with Ryan Miller. Luongo is a virtual lock to be named to Canada's club on Tuesday morning, and many believe the starting job is his to lose.
Hence, it's something of an Olympic preview Saturday night.
Even better, it might be a complete crapshow. Quick hasn't played since November 12. Safe to say he'll be battling a little rust. Luongo too, although he insists otherwise.
“I haven't missed that much time,” he told the Vancouver Sun. “I've been working out on the ice for the last week so it shouldn't be too much of an issue.”
You know. Unless it is.
Combine the potential with the fact that both teams come into this game off losses in which they played pretty abysmally defensively -- the Kings lost 5-0 to the Blues; the Canucks surrendered four goals to the Lightning -- and it's possible that one or both goaltenders could look pretty silly Saturday.
And that's a recipe for comedy, especially with American and Canadian hockey fans already beginning to chirp one another over the most anticipated international tournament in four years.
I declare this game a must-watch.
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