VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Canucks know they can’t look back.
Not at an embarrassing home performance, or the numerous losses suffered at the hands of their next opponent.
“It’s what’s ahead of you that counts,” said Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins. “What’s behind is already gone. We can’t change that. We’ve got to worry about what’s ahead of us.”
What’s behind them is a blown 2-0 lead in a troubling 6-2 home loss on Thursday to the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets, while what’s ahead is a two-game road trip that begins Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings, a team that has already beaten the Canucks three times this season and is 6-1-1 over their last eight meetings.
“It’s this one that matters and it’s what we can bring forward,” said Desjardins. “I’m confident in our group. I’m looking forward to the game and we’ll see what happens.”
The Canucks (40-26-4), who practised in Vancouver on Friday before flying to Los Angeles, currently occupy second place in the Pacific Division, but are just two points up on the Kings (34-22-14) for ninth in the Western Conference heading into the critical matinee tilt.
“It’s a hard team to play on home ice. They’re really good in their building,” said Canucks forward Chris Higgins. “A lot teams have trouble going in that rink and getting wins. We’ve had trouble the last couple years. It’s a big challenge for us to put a complete game in.”
Los Angeles has outscored Vancouver 12-3 in its three regulation victories this season while also holding a dominant 96-54 edge in shots.
“They’re used to beating teams, they’re used to beating us,” added Higgins. “Obviously it leaves a sour taste in our mouth.”
Canucks captain Henrik Sedin stressed Vancouver put in its best effort the last time the teams met — a 4-0 Kings’ win at Rogers Arena on March 12 — despite the scoreline.
“It’s just another big game for us,” he said. “We can’t go in there thinking: ‘It’s the L.A. Kings and we haven’t beaten them the whole year.’ It’s more about going in and focusing on ourselves and playing a good game.”
The challenge for any team against the Kings is to deal with their imposing size, and Desjardins said Saturday’s task for his smaller roster will be no different.
“We have to find a way to win the 1-on-1 battles,” he said. “They’re hard to handle down low, but we have to have more spark or whatever when we go in on those battles. We have to be able to win them, and that’s a big challenge. It’s not easy, but that’s something we have to do.”
The Canucks have impressive road wins against the Blues, Blackhawks, Penguins, Rangers and Capitals this season, but a victory in hostile territory against a division rival that has had their number would have to rank at the top.
“It’s a big challenge for us,” said goalie Eddie Lack. “But I feel like when we’ve been up against the wall before we’ve been able to pull out our best effort.”
Notes: Desjardins said it’s likely that Jacob Markstrom will start in goal Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes. … Canucks forwards Zack Kassian and Brad Richardson are both dealing with undisclosed injuries and didn’t make the trip. Derek Dorsett and Alexandre Burrows didn’t practise on Friday, but did travel with the team. … The Kings visit the Canucks in the teams’ regular-season finale April 6.
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