VANCOUVER — In a series that could have great bearing on the snails' race for fourth place in the Smythe Division of the National Hockey League, the Kings will play the Vancouver Canucks five times in their next 20 games, beginning with tonight's game at the Pacific Coliseum.
That could be bad news for the Kings, who are 4-12-3 against the Canucks in the last 2 1/2 seasons.
"They definitely seem to have our number," King goaltender Rollie Melanson said.
That may have something to do with the Canucks' clutch-and-grab style, which has stymied the Kings.
"They play the type of game that has been tough for us over the years," Dave Taylor said. "They do a lot of holding, and they have a big defense. It's not real mobile, but when we get down low, they seem to be able to close us off and keep us from rotating.
"It gets frustrating. You look to the referee to make sure he does his job and calls a fair game."
The Kings and Canucks, who will meet again Wednesday night at the Forum, are locked in their annual battle to stay out of the cellar and earn the division's final playoff spot.
The Canucks were six points ahead of the Kings after beating the Winnipeg Jets, 6-5, only 2 1/2 weeks ago. But they haven't won since, losing their last six games and falling two points behind the Kings.
The Kings were 4-3 in that span, including a rousing 5-0 win over the Minnesota North Stars last Saturday night in which Melanson made 39 saves for his third career shutout.
Coach Robbie Ftorek, who has often said that he does not look beyond any opponent, admitted afterward that he had hoped for a strong showing against the North Stars to give the Kings momentum going into this series.
Several players have also grown eager to face the Canucks.
"We've been looking at the schedule now for about two weeks," Melanson said. "We're very well aware of what's going on. This is a good opportunity for us to make some hay.
"We have to approach these next two games as playoff games. We know we're going to have to get down and dirty to win both--and that's our objective."
The Kings are 18-31-5, including an 8-19-3 record on the road and a 1-2 record against the Canucks. The Canucks are 16-30-7. . . . Bob Carpenter, who has missed eight games with a shoulder injury, and Mike Allison, who has missed five with a groin injury, are both expected to play tonight. . . . Neither Tom Laidlaw, who has a charley horse in his right leg, nor Mark Hardy, who has the flu, made the trip. . . . Craig Redmond, suspended last October when he refused to report to the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate at New Haven, Conn., was cut last week from the Canadian Olympic team. "Craig had one nagging injury after another--concussion, a pulled groin muscle and a charley horse," Team Canada Coach Dave King told the Toronto Star. "He had been out for quite a bit of time, and the injuries got in the way of him regaining top form." . . . Rollie Melanson's 39 saves last Saturday night in a 5-0 win over the Minnesota North Stars was not a season high. He made 43 saves Oct. 23 in a 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. . . . The Kings are 0-12 this season when Luc Robitaille is held without a point.