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(M. J. MASOTTI JR.)
(M. J. MASOTTI JR.)

Vancouver on the verge of franchise's first Presidents' Trophy Add to ...

The Vancouver Canucks can clinch the franchise's first President's Trophy Thursday with a win over the Los Angeles Kings and a regulation loss by the Philadelphia Flyers against the Atlanta Thrashers.

Captain Henrik Sedin said the team would likely be watching the Flyers-Thrashers game as they prepare to face the Kings, but goaltender Roberto Luongo had a different take.

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"We might watch a Western Conference game," said Vancouver's starting goalie. "We're not too worried about Philly."

Not yet, anyway.

The Canucks continue to experiment with their lineup having locked up first place in their conference. Mason Raymond will centre the third line Thursday, a position that has been fluid since Manny Malhotra was lost for the season with an eye injury.

"I'd like to see what Mason Raymond can do on a line with Jannik Hansen and Raffi Torres," head coach Alain Vigneault said. "I've been thinking about this for a while now, about giving him a chance."

Raymond, normally a winger, has bounced between the second and fourth lines all year, during a disappointing season that has been plagued by injuries and has included only 37 points and 13 goals. Vigneault said he was convinced of the move after watching Raymond replace Malhotra on a penalty-killing forward duo with Hansen.

Jeff Tambellini will replace Raymond on the second line, and Maxim Lapierre continues to languish as the fourth-line centre.

Wingers Mikael Samuelsson (lower body) and Tanner Glass (ribs) continue to be sidelines, but defencemen Alexander Edler (back) and Andrew Alberts (wrist) should join the team's practice Friday, according to Vigneault.

Vancouver has won five straight games, but its opponent has four consecutive wins. The Kings have also won six straight road games, and are 12-1-3 away from Staples Center since Jan. 21.

Their penalty-killing unit has been sublime, having dispensed with 40 of the last 41 shorthanded situations. And these indicators bode well for a club that is closing in on a postseason spot, but is without top centre Anze Kopitar (ankle) and winger Justin Williams (shoulder). Together, Kopitar and Williams had 47 goals, and the Kings understand that they cannot replace said production at this late stage.

"We're certainly going to have to change the way we play," defenceman Rob Scuderi said, referencing a more defensive style. "Figure one less goal per game."

 

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