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Canucks look to trio for more production vs. Kings
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The question now is simple -- but still intriguing.
What can Thomas Vanek, Brock Boeser and Sam Gagner do for an encore?
The trio will get another chance to shine again Saturday as the Vancouver Canucks (16-17-5) host the Los Angeles Kings (22-11-6).
Playing on the same line, Vanek, Gagner and Boeser accounted for all of Vancouver's goals, combining for 12 points, in a 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night.
Vanek scored two goals and added three assists, Gagner had two goals and an assist, and Boeser furnished a goal and three assists.
Saturday's game will serve as another opportunity to help Boeser, 20, round out his clearly gifted game by displaying more playmaking opportunities as he contends for NHL rookie of the year honors.
"Brock, he's a shooter," Canucks coach Travis Green said. "There (have) been times in the last 10 to 15 games that he knows he's probably shot the puck when he had a guy open. Well, we want him to shoot. He's a natural goal scorer. But there (are) going to be times and places when he can move the puck."
Vanek, Gagner and Boeser are starting to bond after playing on various lines this season, in which the Canucks have struggled to find consistency.
Boeser, who leads the Canucks with 21 goals and 17 assists, is clearly enjoying playing with veterans Vanek, 33, and Gagner, 28, who are also in their first season with Canucks after signing as free agents in the offseason.
"It's been a blast," Boeser said. "Just based off of (a pre-Christmas game against St. Louis), I thought our chemistry was building."
Gagner, an all-purpose forward who is now playing center but has also played wing and the point during the power play, is on a four-game point streak. He only produced points in five of 15 games beforehand.
After moving up and down the lineup and shifting positions, he is enjoying the new-found chemistry with Vanek and Boeser.
"They've been great," said Gagner, who toiled for Columbus last season. "I've played with Vanny a lot this year. When you add (Boeser) into the mix, he finds so much open ice, he creates so many chances with how he handles the puck and shoots the puck."
Vanek, who split last season with Florida and Detroit, has 10 points in his last four games. He is starting to show the scoring proficiency expected when the Canucks signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract.
But the Vienna native hopes to see more consistency from the team, which has only two wins in its last 10 games, and his line.
"It's one win for us, which is important, and one big night for our line," Vanek said of the win over Chicago. "But we need to win a lot more game. Hopefully, we can keep our momentum going here."
Meanwhile, the Kings have lost some momentum after a strong start to the season under new coach Jon Stevens. Los Angeles has dropped five of its last seven games, including Thursday's overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Kings have scored only seven goals in the recent losses. However, Los Angeles still has a solid hold on second place in the Pacific Division.
L.A. sports a decent 11-6-2 road record and has a chance to capitalize on Vancouver's subpar 7-10-3 home mark. But the Kings, who have had some heated affairs with the Canucks in recent years, are looking for a better effort than the one they displayed against the upstart Golden Knights.
The Kings mustered only three shots on the Vegas net in the second period.
"We have to play our game for 60 minutes," defenseman Drew Doughty told reporters. "We don't deserve to win if we don't play our game for 60 minutes."
Stevens called the effort probably the "most disappointing this year in terms of not trying to establish game plan." Center Anze Kopitar, who has re-ignited offensively this season, called on the Kings to deliver a better performance.
"We have to clean it up," Kopitar told reporters. "I know (the game against Vegas was) the first game after a break, but we have to be a lot better than that."
The Kings have produced only one regulation-time victory since Dec. 5. The Canucks will be the first of three Pacific Division rivals that they face on a three-game road trip through western Canada that includes stops in Edmonton and Calgary.
Kopitar wants to ensure that they do not lose any ground.
"The effort -- the desperation, the emotional level -- has to go way up," he said.
Updated December 30, 2017