After going 0-2-2 in their last 4 games, the Chicago Blackhawks look to right the ship when they host the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night at the United Center.
While necessarily a rivalry game, this pair of franchises have seemed to mirror each other over the last three decades. Be it falling just short of glory in the 90’s, irrelevant in the early 2000’s or the toast of the league in the 2010’s, both teams tend to find themselves in similar situations at the same time. Accordingly, both teams head into Thursday night’s game with .500 records.
Los Angeles has won two of its last three and has an opportunity to improve on their .500 record against a very hurt Blackhawks team. Amidst their cold streak, the Hawks have lost a number of players due to injury, a list headlined by Chicago’s top defenseman, Seth Jones. The Blackhawks will need solid play in all three zones for 60 minutes if they want to avoid a fifth straight loss.
Containing the Kings’ offense will be a key focus for the Hawks. LA features plenty of firepower in the offensive zone, driven by forwards Gabriel Vilardi and Kevin Fiala — both of whom have 13 points in 12 games on the year. Although those two younger players lead the team in scoring, a few familiar veteran names remain with the Kings: forward Anze Kopitar, who is third with 10 points (2 G, 8 A), and defenseman Drew Doughty, who leads the team with average ice time of 26:38 — almost six minutes ahead of his teammates. Speaking of familiar veteran players, there’s one at the back end for the Kings but the overall goaltending has not been so good. Both veteran Jonathan Quick and his co-netminder, Calvin Petersen, own save percentages under the .890 mark. This dichotomy presents an interesting challenge for a struggling Blackhawks team, as the Kings have scored plenty of goals but struggle to keep the puck out of their own net.
The Blackhawks’ own veteran tandem is leading the way this season, as Patrick Kane leads the team with 10 points while Jonathan Toews has a team-high six goals. But a win on Thursday night will require the offensive workload to be distributed more evenly among the forward lines — especially during 5-on-5 play. If the Blackhawks offense can establish some puck possession and set up its offense in the Los Angeles end, then it should have opportunities to take advantage of the Kings’ goaltending struggles, which would help Chicago skate away with two points on Thursday evening.
It is still very early in the season. But with the Hawks sitting at .500, Thursday night’s result could be a harbinger of what’s coming for the rest of this winter.
Tale of the tape (statistics from last season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Kings
46.64% (28th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 54.15% (5th)
45.43% (28th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 53.36% (7th)
2.60 (29th) — Goals per game — 2.87 (20th)
3.44 (25th) — Goals against per game — 2.83 (10th)
49.6% (16th) — Faceoffs — 52.2% (5th)
19.2% (21st) — Power play — 16.1% (27th)
76.2% (24th) — Penalty kill — 76.7% (22nd)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Athanasiou — Domi — P. Kane
Kurashev — Toews — Raddysh
Entwistle — Dickinson — Lafferty
Katchouk — R. Johnson — Khaira
J. Johnson — McCabe
Tinordi — Murphy
Roos — C. Jones
Kempe — Kopitar — Vilardi
Moore — Danault — Arvidsson
Fiala — Kupari — Grundstrom
Clarke — Lizotte — Kaliyev
Anderson — Doughty
Durzi — Roy
Edler — Clarke
How to watch
When: 7:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Radio: WGN 720
Live stream: Sling TV