Los Angeles (44-26-6) at Vancouver (51-17-9)

By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN, STATS Senior Writer Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011 Puck Drop: 10:00 pm EDT Thu Mar 31, 2011

The Vancouver Canucks may be able to earn their first Presidents’ Trophy on Thursday night. The Los Angeles Kings have far more incentive as they go for a fifth straight win.

The short-handed Kings can move a step closer to the playoffs if they can go on the road and end the Canucks’ four-game win streak.

Vancouver (51-17-9) has clinched the top seed in the Western Conference after Tuesday’s 3-1 victory at Nashville. The Canucks completed a perfect four-game road trip in which they outscored opponents 12-4.

“We talked about getting in, getting first in our division, and if the conference was there, go for it,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “We did it and we clinched it. It is a good moment for our group.”

Vancouver could clinch the best record in the NHL on Thursday, depending partly on the result of a game between East-leading Philadelphia and Atlanta. The Canucks are nine points ahead of the Flyers, who have five games left after Thursday.

Los Angeles (44-26-6), meanwhile, is in fifth place in the West as it completes a two-game trip. The Kings will have to get into the postseason without top scorers Anze Kopitar(notes) and Justin Williams(notes).

Kopitar broke his right ankle in a 4-1 victory over Colorado on Saturday, and Williams recently dislocated his shoulder. Neither will play for the rest of the regular season.

“Everybody should have a bit more pressure on them,” forward Dustin Penner(notes) said. “When you lose two guys like that, as a team you have to play better offensively. We are pretty sound.”

The Kings played without Kopitar for the first time in Tuesday’s 2-0 victory at Edmonton. Jonathan Bernier(notes) made 32 saves for his third shutout of the season.

“I think it was an important game for us with the fact that we have a couple of the key guys out of the lineup, that you come and play and check the right way,” coach Terry Murray told the Kings’ official website. “The system, the structure, you trust everyone out there.”

Dustin Brown(notes) has stepped up, totaling four goals and two assists in three games since Williams got hurt.

He’s helped the Kings win six straight road games, their longest such streak since a seven-game run last season. They are 12-1-3 away from home since Jan. 21.

Strong goaltending down the stretch is another key for Los Angeles. Bernier is 4-0-1 with a 1.60 goals-against average in five starts this month while Jonathan Quick(notes) is 5-1-1 with a 1.95 GAA in his last seven.

Bernier’s lone career start against the Canucks was an 8-3 victory April 1, 2010. Quick has started all three meetings this season, going 2-1-0 with a 1.30 GAA.

Roberto Luongo(notes) opposed Quick in all of those games and posted a 1.95 GAA. He’s allowed one goal in three straight starts - all wins - but the Canucks could use backup Cory Schneider(notes), who has a 1.65 GAA in winning his last six.

The Kings have limited Henrik and Daniel Sedin(notes) to six points in the three meetings. The twins combined for 18 last year in the first round of the playoffs when the Canucks won in six games.

The Sedins totaled four assists Tuesday as Alex Burrows scored twice.

The Canucks have the best penalty kill in the league at 86.5 percent, limiting opponents to one goal in 17 chances on their road trip.

The Kings have been even better lately, holding opponents to 1 for 41 on the power play this month. They haven’t given up a power-play goal in 12 consecutive road games.

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Thursday, Mar 31