Blackhawks Prepare to Battle Re-tooled LA Kings
The Blackhawks four game winning streak came to an end on Thursday night when they provided the Dallas Stars with an opportunity to rally late in the third period and skated away with a much needed two points by both teams.
Chicago looks to regroup and get back on the winning track when they travel to Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon to face a recently offensively-improved Kings squad. This will be the second meeting between these two Western teams, with each club earning a win on the road.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi made a bold move before the trade deadline by further increasing the scoring punch for his "Philly West" club by adding marquee goal sniper, Jeff Carter in exchange for Jack Johnson and a first round pick. Re-uniting Carter with his buddy Mike Richards, Lombardi hopes to jump-start his team's offense to make a significant run in the post-season.
The LA Kings are running a 2-6-2 record in their last ten games, slightly less impressive than the Blackhawks' 4-6 record of late. Though Los Angeles allows the third least amount of goals in the league, they are last in the NHL in goals scored. Hence the need for additional scoring.
Likewise, the Kings' penalty kill has been very effective, killing off 86.6% of penalties they face, but their power play has struggled mightily for the duration of the season, clicking at about 15%. The hope is that the addition of Jeff Carter on the power play can help increase their efficiency on special teams as a whole.
The LA Kings are in a very dire situation when it comes to making the playoffs right now. They're tied with Dallas and Calgary for the final playoff spot in the West with several other teams hot on their tales. Chicago should expect the Kings to come out hard, especially in front of their home crowd.
The Chicago Blackhawks are in slightly better playoff position, sitting at sixth place, two points ahead of Phoenix. It is critical for them to continue to string wins together throughout the remainder of the season or their playoff hopes will be shattered with the emergence of another Western conference club.
Chicago's defense has been anything but consistent this year and that's especially the case of late. After a four game winning streak where the team as a whole played a solid defensive game to break their nine game losing streak, the Hawks competed admirably against Dallas in the second period and then completely fell apart in the third period.
There aren't a lot of ways to explain the strange behavior of the team's defensive play, but it's made even worse when you take into consideration how awful their special teams' have performed of late as well. The Hawks power play has plummeted down to 20th place clicking at 16.1 efficiency, slightly better than LA's, while their penalty killing is at a disgraceful 78%, good for 26th in the league.
It doesn't help that Chicago will be without it's most important player in Jonathan Toews, who is suspected to be suffering concussion-like symptoms. The same has been said of defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who will not play in LA after returning for one game against Dallas. Steve Montador will also miss Saturday's game as he may have to miss significant time heading into the post-season.
This game might be a good indication for GMs on what kind of moves to make as the trade deadline closes in. Regardless, both teams are in need of points with only so many games remaining to hold down a playoff spot.