The well-rested Chicago Blackhawks are back in the United Center Monday night for the first time in over two weeks as the Los Angeles Kings look to end a two-game skid.
In the first two meetings this season, the Blackhawks have taken 2 points away from LA both at the United Center and the Staples Center. The Hawks were lead to those wins by Jonathan Toews with 4 points (2G, 2A) and Marian Hossa (2G), but received outstanding goaltending from both Crawford and Emery who have each earned a 2.00 GAA on the season.
The Los Angeles Kings are led by Anze Kopitar, who has earned 6 points in his last 7 games (1G, 5A), and Jonathon Quick who has allowed only 3 goals in his last 3 games. Despite the high level of play from these two and Jeff Carter, the Kings were shutout at home Saturday night by the Vancouver Canucks and the Dallas Stars last Thursday. The defense of Drew Doughty has been stellar and certainly played a key role in keeping those games to only 3 combined goals and keeping the Canucks to only 13 shots on goal. Still, the blue line is tight and will be difficult for Chicago to penetrate.
The Chicago Blackhawks are riding the Kane Train at the moment, who has had three 3-point games out of his last 5 and boasts 38 points (16G, 22A) through 30 games this season. Kane has been spectacular for Chicago this season, which many are attributing to his play in Switzerland during the lockout in which he registered 23 points in 20 games. Jonathan Toews has come ready to play this season as well – he ranks first in the Western Conference (5th overall) in faceoff wins and second in the NHL with 35 takeaways. His effort has elevated the play of those around him, including Brandon Saad.
Brand Saad has points in four straight games (1G, 5A) and has recorded nearly 22 minutes of ice time versus Colorado just a few weeks ago. There was no doubt in Hawks fan’s minds that Saad was a great player coming into this season, but the Captain has certainly allowed for his development to skyrocket – and for his play to impress the coaching staff.
The Hawks’ three keys to taking down the Kings tonight in the United Center are:
- Pace – The Blackhawks always play much better when the pace is high, as we have seen in both games against LA this season.
- Tight Blue Line – Oduya, Keith, Leddy, and Hjalmarsson have been phenomenal this season in denying successful D-zone penetration. It directly results in higher puck possession time for the likes of Viktor Stalberg, Michael Frolik, and Brandon Bollig. Offensive Zone time = time well spent.
- Traffic in Front of Quick – Jonathon Quick is arguable one of the best goalies in the NHL (and he performed with flying colors last season to lead the Kings toward raising the Stanley Cup). His vision and speed is unlike any goalie we have seen in years, so traffic is crucial to blocking his view of the puck, especially with the high volume of shots from the point that Chicago likes so much.
Marian Hossa will not play Monday night against the Kings and Patrick Sharp is still out with an upper body injury, though he skated with the team this morning during practice. Matt Green (mid-body) and Alec Martinez (upper-body) are both out for LA on Monday night.
Both teams are looking for a big win tonight to boost them from some bad losses recently, and they will play like it! Don’t miss this Western Conference matchup tonight at 7pm CT.