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Settle for Nothing: Blackhawks at Kings Preview

The Blackhawks play the second game of a back-to-back against the Kings, who Chicago has not seen since 2019.

Chicago Blackhawks v Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings battle for the puck
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NHLI via Getty Images

The last time the Chicago Blackhawks faced the Los Angeles Kings was on Nov. 2, 2019: a 4-3 loss for the Hawks. Dominik Kubalik, David Kampf and Jonathan Toews scored for the Blackhawks while Tyler Toffoli had two points for the Kings and Michael Amadio scored.

A lot has changed then for both teams. This is not the Kings team who did battle with the Blackhawks consistently in the first half of the last decade, but it’s still a very competitive Kings team nonetheless that Chicago faces this evening in LA.

Los Angeles enters this game at 6-3-1 in their last 10, including a 6-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. The Kings are currently second in the Pacific Division with 78 points, although the Oilers are three points back with a game in hand.

Los Angeles has allowed the second-fewest goals in the Pacific Division this season with 182 in 65 games, mostly due to a defense that has allowed the fewest shots against per 60 at 5-on-5 this season and the fewest shot attempts per 60 as well.

It’s certainly not the Kings’ lackluster goaltending, which has a .903 save percentage this season across all strengths — 17th in the league. Jonathan Quick has somewhat regained his form from a decade ago with a .909 save percentage while Cal Peterson has dived from previous seasons to a .902 save percentage.

Garret Sparks, who’s part of the just-announced lineup for Lollapalooza in July (not a joke, by the way, his DJ name is Bucky Cheds), has the team best save percentage for the Kings at a .936 mark, although he’s started just one game.

The Kings are led offensively by Anze Kopitar, who has 54 points in 65 games, including 16 goals. Adrian Kempe paces the team in goal-scoring with 28 this season, while former Blackhawk Phil Danault has 37 points and 19 goals this year.

Other notable players on the Kings’ side include rookies Arthur Kaliyev — who has 12 goals and 21 points in 64 games — defenseman Sean Durzi (19 points in 47 games) Rasmus Kupari (11 in 29) and 19-year-old Quinton Byfield, who has four goals and seven points in 25 games from the Kings’ third line.

The Kings are dealing with a number of injuries, including ones to Viktor Arvidsson, Andreas Athanasiou, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Sean Walker, Matt Roy and Brendan Lemieux. Despite that amount of talent watching from the skybox, the Kings have been one of the best offenses, producing 3.27 expected goals per 60 across all strengths, the fifth most in the NHL, and 2.78 xGF/60 at 5-on-5, also fifth-most.

Los Angeles is a top producer of high-danger chances, with 12.68 per 60 at 5-on-5, the fourth most, and put a lot of shots on net with 33.68 per 60 at 5-on-5. While the Kings don’t have a player over a point-per-game pace, they have 17 with at least 10 points, compared to 16 for the Blackhawks. And that comes in spite of the Kings having the worst shooting percentage in the league at 8.13.

The Kings have the fifth-worst PDO in the league, which means, if anything, the Kings should be even better than they have been this season. The Kings’ PDO is also, somehow, worse than the Blackhawks’.

There is one area the Kings are weak in, however, and that’s their special teams. LA’s power play is 28th in the league at 15.9% and the penalty kill is 27th in the league at 74.6%. Neither seems to be doing much right this season, although again, a very low PDO likely doesn’t help.

Meanwhile, Chicago is coming off the first game of a back-to-back against the Anaheim Ducks after being sellers at the deadline. The Kings were buyers, although their major acquisition was Troy Stecher, who was acquired for just a seventh-round pick.

The Blackhawks will be playing the rest of this season without the player who was arguably their best, in just-traded goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. After Kevin Lankinen started on Wednesday in Anaheim, Collin Delia will get just his second start of the season on Thursday. However, the good news is Taylor Raddysh continues to score goals, with two in his first three games in a Blackhawks uniform.

The opponent Chicago faces this evening is one that is much closer to the end of their rebuild than the beginning, even after a tight game against Anaheim.

Blackhawks — Statistic — Kings

46.64% (28th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 54.58% (4th)

45.43% (28th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 53.41% (7th)

2.60 (27th) — Goals per game — 2.80 (23rd)

3.44 (25th) — Goals against per game — 2.77 (8th)

48.6% (21st) — Faceoffs — 53.1% (5th)

20.3% (15th) — Power play — 15.9% (28th)

76.2% (24th) — Penalty kill — 74.6% (27th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

DeBrincat — Strome — Kane

Kubalik — Toews — Raddysh

Kurashev — Dach — Lafferty

Katchouk — R. Johnson — Entwistle

Stillman — S. Jones

de Haan — C. Jones

Vlasic — Gustafsson

Delia

Lankinen

Kings

Iafallo — Kopitar — Kempe

Moore — Danault — Kaliyev

Vilardi — Byfield — Kupari

Grundstrom — Lizotte — Andersson

Maatta — Spence

Edler — Stecher

Moverare — Durzi

Quick/Peterson

How to watch

When: 9 p.m. CT

Where: Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles

TV: N/A

Webstream: ESPN+, Hulu

(Yes, this is another game only available on the ESPN+ streaming platform and not on any sort of traditional TV network)