After having about 36 hours to dwell on one of the most disappointing performances in recent memory, the Chicago Blackhawks start a rare weekend with back-to-back matinée games Saturday afternoon when they face the Los Angeles Kings.
Los Angeles comes into this one on a three-game winning streak, which includes back-to-back wins over the Vegas Golden Knights, a sentence that would not have seemed all that impressive six months ago. But with the Golden Knights leading the Pacific Division, those wins helped close the gap between Vegas and LA. The Kings trail the Golden Knights by 10 points with 17 games to play and Vegas has a game in hand, so catching that team seems unlikely. However, that recent surge has helped LA jump Anaheim for third place in the division. Staying there (or jumping into second) could keep LA from having a wild card berth that could send them through the meat-grinder that will be the Central Division playoffs. One recent development that has LA thriving again? The return of forward Jeff Carter, who’d been out with an injury since October but has scored once in each of the last three games for the Kings.
For the Blackhawks, a redemptive performance is needed in the worst way after a disastrous Thursday night blowout against the San Jose Sharks. Odd-man rushes were flying off the shelves at a discount rate for San Jose, who seemed to cash in on every one of them. Jean-Francois Berube gave away a goal at the end of the second period, but that was after the Chicago defense had left him with no chance to make a save on the previous five tallies. In response, coach Joel Quenneville has gone to the nuclear option on the top line, putting Patrick Kane on the right wing opposite Brandon Saad and next to Jonathan Toews. Alex DeBrincat and Vinnie Hinostroza are wingers on a line centered by Nick Schmaltz, while Anthony Duclair and Tomas Jurco team up with Artem Anisimov on the third line. On the blue line, Duncan Keith skates with Connor Murphy, a pairing of what’s been the two top-performing D-men in Chicago this season and seems like it could be the top pair into next season. So that is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
Without a morning skate, there’s no word on who’s in net for the Hawks, but the assumption here is that Anton Forsberg will get the nod after Berube was saddled with the loss on Thursday. But it’s the 18 skaters rotating in front of net who’ll need to play significantly better during the final month of the season, even if there’s no postseason to be played for.
|F1||Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane|
|F2||Alex DeBrincat - Nick Schmaltz - Vinnie Hinostroza|
|F3||Tomas Jurco - Artem Anisimov - Anthony Duclair|
|F4||Patrick Sharp - David Kampf - Matthew Highmore|
|D1||Duncan Keith - Connor Murphy|
|D2||Erik Gustaffson - Brent Seabrook|
|D3||Carl Dahlstrom - Jordan Oesterle|
|F1||Alex Iafallo - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown|
|F2||Tanner Pearson - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli|
|F3||Nate Thompson - Adrian Kempe - Tobias Rieder|
|F4||Kyle Clifford - Mike Amadio - Torrey Mitchell|
|D1||Derek Forbort - Drew Doughty|
|D2||Dion Phaneuf - Alec Martinez|
|D3||Jake Muzzin - Christian Folin|
*Lines are subject to change.
How to watch Blackhawks at Kings
Start time: 3 p.m. CT
Location: Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV: NBC Sports Chicago