The Vancouver Canucks spent Thursday looking for answers.
And Daniel Sedin probably won’t be part of that answer, at least for Game 2 on Friday night. Sedin, recovering from a concussion, didn’t skate Thursday, which makes it quite unlikely he will play Friday.
As for the show on the ice Wednesday night, the NHL’s top team, for the second regular season in a row, was disorientated and easily outplayed by the Los Angeles Kings, a team that could barely score goals for much of 2011-12.
But the Kings have chugged the magical elixir at just the right moment and former underperformers such as Mike Richards are fully revived, complementing steady strong play from Anze Kopitar and scrappy playoff hustle delivered by Dustin Penner.
It added up to a 4-2 loss for Vancouver, the first time in five years the Canucks have lost the opening game of a playoff series.
“We need to have an answer to Kopitar’s line,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said after an optional practice on Thursday. “We need to have an answer for Penner, who was a powerful force down in our own end. We need to have an answer for Richards, who played one of the best games I’ve seen him play since he’s been in L.A.”
Most of the answers, it seems, will come from the coaches, who spent much of Thursday studying video, and strategizing. Practice was optional – about half the team skated, though few stars. Henrik Sedin was absent, as was Ryan Kesler.
Vigneault said he “felt it was the right thing” to offer up an optional practice, to “make sure our guys are ready for tomorrow.”
Asked about details on his planning: “We’re working on a lot of things right now, so you don’t need to worry about that.”
One obvious question is Kesler versus Richards.
Richards had a big night, points on three of L.A.’s four goals, including scoring the opening marker, which tied the game in the early second period.
“I’m not sure I like that matchup,” Vigneault said.
Another question is the checking third-line of Samme Pahlsson, Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen against Kopitar’s line.
Vigneault also called out defenceman Alex Edler, who had a career-high 50 points during the regular season but had, at best, a so-so game Wednesday. He is part of the reason the Vancouver power play has been so weak of late, and Vigneault said Edler has to step up his game and play to his all-star calibre.