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You Come At The King, You Best Not Miss: Blackhawks vs Kings Preview

The Blackhawks are back at the UC to face-off against the once mighty Kings.

Los Angeles Kings v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks welcome the Los Angeles Kings to The United Center on Sunday night after the Blackhawks finished a quick, two-game road trip with wins against Philadelphia and St. Louis.

Everyone is talking about the Seattle Kraken and Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific, but the Kings are only four points back of the division lead.

First things first, it feels disingenuous not to acknowledge the incredibly disappointing news that Dave shared on Friday afternoon.

While I only just started writing at Second City Hockey six weeks ago, I’ve been reading and enjoying it since before Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane ever hoisted The Stanley Cup. It feels impossible for me to imagine a time in the future in which the Blackhawks are good again (also sometimes hard to imagine a time in the future when the Blackhawks are good again) where I won’t be able to read about it on Second City Hockey.

No matter how much you’ve appreciated Dave (or Satchel or Greg or Sam) — believe me when I say the amount of work Dave puts in is ten times more than what you actually see on the site itself. This matters to him. A LOT. And my sincere hope is that he is able to continue to write about the Chicago Blackhawks in whatever manner he chooses and we’re all lucky enough to join him.

My other sincere hope is that all the higher-ups at Vox who made this decision get explosive diarrhea every single day for the rest of their lives, but we’ll talk about that another time.

The Kings’ current trajectory has them not just comfortably in the playoffs, but as a challenger for the Pacific crown. They’re in the midst of a six game road trip — but have lost their last three in a row — dropping their contest in Nashville against the Predators on Saturday night by a score of 5-3.

Los Angeles felt like a team that was ahead of schedule last season when it finished third in the division with 99 points and lost to Edmonton in seven games in the first round of the playoffs. They supplemented that team with a trade for star forward Kevin Fiala — who leads the Kings in scoring with 47 points (16 G, 31 A) in 47 games and scored the game-winning goal against the Blackhawks in overtime back on Nov. 10.

The Kings, as they’re currently built, would have been a good model for the Blackhawks to follow if they’d committed to a rebuild a few years back. LA leaned into the inevitable decline that started after their second cup — bottoming out in 2018-2019 when they finished 30th overall— sacrificing a few prime seasons of franchise cornerstones Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty in hopes of adding enough talent around them through draft and development that they’d be back in contention before either player had to retire.

While Kopitar’s numbers aren’t quite as shiny as they were a few years back when he was challenging Patrice Bergeron for the Selke every season, he’s still firmly in the positive possession-wise (53.2% CF) and putting up points (12 G, 23 A) while he centers LA’s top line, skating in between Fiala and Adrian Kempe (18 G, 12 A).

Just like Kopitar, Doughty still plays big minutes for the Kings — manning their top pair and quarterbacking their No. 1 power play. Age and injuries have caught up to Doughty some — he hasn’t played more than 67 games in a season since 2018 — but he’s been healthy essentially all season so far, skating in 47 of their 48 games.

The other remaining member from the Kings championship core is goaltender Jonathan Quick, who’s in the final season of the monster 10-year, $58 million deal he signed in 2012 immediately after their first Cup — and this could very well be his last year in LA. The plan was for him to cede the throne (sorry) to incumbent Cal Petersen this season and serve as more of a mentor/backup, but Petersen’s terrible early season play got him turfed to the AHL, so Quick has ended up taking the bulk of LA’s starts. Quick’s minus-11 goals saved above expected currently ranks him all the way down at 80th in the league, which is three spots lower than Petersen at 77 (though Petersen has appeared in 15 fewer games).

The Kings have seen a few of their younger players make big developmental strides this season — most noticeably forward Gabe Vilardi (17 goals, 59.2% CF) and defenseman Sean Durzi (5 G, 19 A, 87 blocks) — but they’re still waiting on Kopitar heir apparent and purported No. 1 center of the future Quenton Byfield to finally figure it all out at the NHL level. Ditto for LOCAL KID Alex Turcotte, who was taken two spots after Kirby Dach in the 2019 draft. Turcotte was out earlier this season due to a concussion but was recently recalled from the AHL right before the start of the Kings trip — so I wouldn’t be surprised if Coach Todd McLellan starts him Sunday to let him play in front of all the Turcottes that will surely be making the trip in from Elk Grove (if you take River Road down then Gene and Jude’s is on the way. Just sayin’.).

The Kings continue to be a plus possession team, they’re middle of the pack in scoring, top five in faceoffs and have a top ten-ish power play.

As for the Blackhawks — they picked up yet another win in St. Louis on Saturday and all of the sudden they’ve won six of seven and three in a row. While my heart may be cold and dead (especially after the news Friday), even I can put aside my desire for them to lose every single game if it means they get Connor Bedard to appreciate someone getting their first NHL start and first NHL win. So congrats to Jaxson Stauber.

Since both teams played (and traveled) Saturday night there most likely won’t be a morning skate and we can assume the lineups should be just about the same — save for the goalies switching out.

Projected Lines

Blackhawks

T. Johnson — Domi — Kane

Kurashev — Toews — Raddysh

Dickinson — Lafferty — Athanasiou

Blackwell — Entwistle — R. Johnson

McCabe — S. Jones

J. Johnson — Murphy

C. Jones — Phillips

Mrazek

Stauber

Kings

Fiala — Kopitar — Kempe

Iafallo — Danault — Arvidsson

Byfield — Lizotte — Anderson-Dolan

Lemieux — Kupari — Fagemo

M. Anderson — Doughty

Durzi — Roy

Edler — Walker

Quick

Copley

Tale of the Tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Kings

42.67% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 51.87% (9th)

36.09% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 49.47% (20th)

2.37 (31st) — Goals per game — 3.19 (14th)

3.63 (27th) — Goals against per game — 3.40 (23rd)

56.2% (1st) — Faceoffs — 53.0% (5th)

20.3% (23rd) — Power play — 24.4% (11th)

74.8% (23rd) — Penalty kill — 73.6% (28th)

How to watch

When: 6 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago, IL

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720