Play It Forward: April 9-15 on your sporting calendar

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

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(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck)
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick inspects his stick while listening to the national anthems before a game at Vancouver on March 26, a game the Canucks won 1-0, to split the season series with the Kings at two apiece.

NHL playoffs: Western Conference quarterfinals: Kings vs. Vancouver — Game 1, Wednesday at Vancouver, 7:30 p.m., Channel 13; Game 2, Friday at Vancouver, 7 p.m., Channel 13; Game 3, Sunday at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

How charming that the Kings have made the playoffs a third time in as many years.

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But having attempted to stay alive past the first round as a sixth- and seventh-seed, this year they’ve decided that the possible psychological damage from giving away the Pacific Division title in the last three days of the regular season, falling from a No. 3 to a No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, losing a home-ice series and drawing the two-time Presidents Trophy-winning Canucks, who finished the season winning eight of their last nine, would make things all that more challenging. Jonathan Quick has been the Kings’ starting goalie during their six-game, first-round losses to the Canucks and San Jose the last two years, so maybe that experience will help him after a Vezina Trophy-type performance got the Kings this far. Vancouver, meanwhile, has split the last 24 games between Roberto Luongo (31-14-8, 2.41 GGA) and Cory Schneider (20-8-1, 1.96 GGA, above left in full gear, celebrating a shootout victory last week against the Ducks with Luongo’s congratulations) and both have done well enough to command the playoff start. Daniel Sedin, whose goal knocked the Kings out of the playoffs in 2010, has been questionable as he recovers from a concussion, while the Kings wonder if Jeff Carter can return from an ankle injury to provide some offense.
Sedin missed the last Canucks-Kings meeting on March 26, but Vancouver pulled out a 1-0 victory to even the season series as two games each.
The Kings-Canucks series is one of three starting on Wednesday, along with Philadelphia-Pittsburgh (4:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network) and Detroit-Nashville (5 p.m., CNBC).

MONDAY

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MLB: Angels at Minnesota, 1:10 p.m., FSW:

C.J. Wilson tweeted out last week that he figured out why he’s No. 4 in the Angels’ rotation: He lacks in stature. “Angels rotation goes ‘tallest to shortest’ – the 6-foot-7 Weaver, the 6-5 Haren, the 6-2 Santana and the 6-1 Wilson.” Makes as much sense as anything else. The series continues Wednesday (5:10 p.m., FSW), but then flips over to a get-away game on Thursday (10:10 a.m., FSW). What are the Angels supposed to do on Tuesday, visit the Hormel meat packing plant?

NBA: Lakers at New Orleans, 5 p.m., Channel 9:

There’s a good chance more than half the Kentucky team that won the NCAA title game in the Bayou last Monday stuck around to size up their chances of early entrance into the NBA draft by watching this contest. The answer: C’mon down. The Hornets need the help.

NBA: Clippers at Memphis, 5 p.m., Prime:

If the standings hold, this could be a preview to a first-round playoff matchup. Which would be fine for the Clippers, who have beaten the Grizzlies four in a row, including 101-85 a few weeks ago when coach Vinny Del Negro’s job status seemed a bit flimsy.

TUESDAY

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MLB: Dodgers vs. Pittsburgh, Dodger Stadium, 1:10 p.m., Prime:

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Part of the pomp and circumstantial proceedings for the Dodgers’ 50th home opener at Dodger Stadium — 50 years ago on this date — include the Beach Boys singing the national anthem, a reunion for the ’62 team, Don Drysdale’s daughter singing “God Bless America” and Magic Johnson trying not to look like he’s taking over already. If Clayton Kershaw is up to it, he gets to pitch again after lasting only three innings in the season opener battling the flu. The series continues Wednesday (7:30 p.m., Prime, with a Kershaw Cy Young replica giveaway) and Thursday (7:10 p.m., Prime)

WEDNESDAY

NBA: Lakers at San Antonio, 5:30 p.m., Channel 9:

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The Lakers make the hair-pin turn into game 59 of the abbreviated 66-game schedule before finally catching their first whiff of the same-old-barnacled Spurs — and then realize they’ve got to smell each other three times in the span of 10 days. Why not just make it a best-of-seven series and start the playoffs now? San Antonio is what’s miraculously keeping the Lakers out of the conversation for determining the top two favorites for Western Conference supremacy, having won 11 in a row between Jan. 30 and Feb. 20 and on a 10-game winning streak going into its game Sunday night against Utah. Meaning, it could be 12 by the time this confrontation takes place. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been micromanaging time allotment for this moment of the season: He recently scratched center Tim Duncan from the lineup, with the box score listing him as: “DNP: Old.” That never gets old.

NBA: Clippers at Oklahoma City, 5 p.m., Prime:

There’s gotta be a way to watch this picture-in-picture at the same time as the Lakers-Spurs contest. OKC’s Kevin Durant had 32 points and nine rebounds in a 25-point win over the Clips on March 21, right in the middle of a nasty three-game L.A. losing streak.

THURSDAY

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NBA: Clippers at Minnesota, 5 p.m., FSW:

Kevin Love had 39 points and 17 rebounds in the T’wolves’ win on March 5 — Minnesota’s third win in a row this season over the Clippers.

Golf: PGA RBC Heritage, at Hilton Head Island, S.C., noon, Golf Channel:

Master the interest in trying to follow this event a week after Augusta. CBS has the rest of it over the weekend.

FRIDAY

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US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy M. Call

MLB: Angels at N.Y. Yankees, 10:10 a.m., FSW:

The Angels will travel 45,167 miles this season, third-most in baseball behind Oakland and Seattle, yet this trip early to the Bronx to serve as the Yankees’ opening-day partner seems cold-hearted. Former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda is scheduled to make the start. The networks have kidnapped the rest of this series on Saturday (10:05 a.m., Channel 11) and Sunday (5:05 p.m., ESPN).

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MLB: Dodgers vs. San Diego, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., Prime:

The annual Jackie Robinson celebration takes place with a wrist-band giveaway on Sunday (1:10 p.m., Prime), at which point these teams will have come close to being halfway done with their required meetings for the entire 2012 season.

NBA: Lakers vs. Denver, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

You could either be in line for the 8:15 showing of “The Three Stooges” at the local cineplex, or fill in your own punchline about a) the three officials paid to do this game, b) the 10th, 11th and 12th spots on the Lakers’ bench or c) the first three callers who get into the Lakers’ line postgame show. Stooges movie may trump here. We know Larry David appears in the flick as Sister Mary-Mengele.

SATURDAY

MLS: Galaxy vs. Portland, Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m., KDOC-Channel 56:

Timber! The Galaxy’s 1-3-0 start and having been outscored 8-5 so far will just make reclaiming that Supporters Shield trophy later this year seem all that more sweet.

NBA: Clippers vs. Golden State, Staples Center, 12:30 p.m., Prime:

Since the Clippers squashed the Warriors on Christmas by 19 points, the G-Staters have won the last two meetings, including a four-pointer a couple of Sundays ago when the Clippers could only hit 16 of their 35 free throws.

NASCAR: Sprint Cup Samsung Mobile 500, at Fort Worth, Tex., 4 p.m., Channel 11:

It’s tough to look away when there’s prime-time, night-event paint-swapping in Texas.

Charity event: “Swim With Mike,” USC McDonald’s Swim Stadium, 8 a.m.:

More than $12 million has been raised in this annual swim-a-thon to honor Mike Nyeholt, a former All-American swimmer at USC who broke his neck in a motorcycle accident in 1981. More info: http://swimwithmike.org/. Attendance at the annual fundraiser is in coordination with USC football’s spring game at the Coliseum (1:30 p.m.).

SUNDAY

Auto racing: IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Sunday at 1 p.m., NBC Sports Network:

The Urban Dictionary says that the letters “IRL” stand for “In real life.” As in, when someone’s in a chat room (they still have those?), it could be a statement to differentiate between an actor/actress and the character they play. “I totally hate that guy IRL!” So, before you start hating on the IRL: IRL, it comes to Long Beach for the third stop of a 16-event season (including the May 27 Indianapolis 500), with Helio Castroneves winning the first deal in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Will Power taking the second one a couple of weeks ago in Alabama. Mike Conway defends his title in the 38th edition of this event, 85 laps long. The schedule highlights include Friday’s IRL practice (10 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.), Saturday’s IRL practice (10:25 a.m.) and qualifying (2 p.m.), Saturday’s Pro/Celebrity race (11:40 a.m.), IRL qualifying (2 p.m.), a Joan Jett concert Saturday (6:45 p.m.) for those who remember her. Pre-race ceremonies start at 12:30 p.m. More info: www.gplb.com.

NBA: Lakers vs. Dallas, Staples Center, 12:30 p.m., Channel 7:

The Lakers are in the strange position of being able to sweep the Mavericks in their fourth straight regular season meeting, less than a year after having been swept out of the playoffs by Dallas en route to the NBA title. In those three previous wins over the Mavs, the Lakers have done it by scoring 73 points, 96 points and 109 points. The Lakers have also won 13 of the last 16 regular season meetings. But if the Lakers stay in the No. 3 spot, and the Mavs remain nestled at No. 6 when the end of the season comes around in a couple of weeks, they could be back in each other’s faces. OK, LO?

Bowling: PBA Tournament of Champions, Las Vegas, 10 a.m., ESPN:

Daniel Tosh’s take on how bowling could should be improved might be of interest to those who tune into this annual celebration of the game’s top shooters in Vegas. We can see Pete Weber doing the ads for “Skee-Bowl” as it catches on big time. It’s a Circus Circus casino game waiting to happen, at the very least.

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