The Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings continue their seven-game Western Conference Finals series with Game Two Wednesday night at United Center in Chicago.
Already up 1-0 after Game One’s 3-1 victory, the Blackhawks are hoping to gain a little more breathing room, but the Kings have proven resilient during these playoffs.
L.A. climbed out of a 3-0 hole to win four straight and drop the San Jose Sharks in the first round, then lost three straight to the Anaheim Ducks to fall to 3-2 in that series before closing it out with two straight wins thanks to a stellar performances from goalie Jonathan Quick.
Quick would make 17 saves off 20 shot attempts in Game One, conceding three goals, but the Kings kept the opening matchup close until goals from Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith in the second period and center Jonathan Toews in the third proved too much down the stretch.
Chicago goalie Corey Crawford made 25 saves, and has now stopped 83 of 86 shots in his last three games. The Blackhawks haven’t lost a game at home yet this postseason, and Crawford is leading a defense that managed to stymie a highly potent Kings attack, including the top line of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik, and Dustin Brown.
Game One was only the second time during the playoffs that Kopitar, Gaborik and Brown were all held pointless. Kopitar and Gaborik are still ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, in points this postseason, but Brown hasn’t scored since the San Jose series and only registered two points against Anaheim, after ranking fifth on the team with 15 goals in the regular season.
The Blackhawks improved their top-ranked postseason penalty kill percentage to 91.7 in Game One, after squelching all two of L.A.’s one-man advantages, but clearly believe there is still remove for improvement.
“We let them have too many good chances,” Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said to the Chicago Sun-Times. “Crow made a couple of big saves. We can do a better job [of] not giving them as many scoring chances next game.”
L.A.’s defense received some good news on Wednesday when it was revealed Robyn Regehr could resume skating on Thursday, according to the LA Times. Regehr was taken out by a nasty hit in Game One of the Anaheim series and hasn’t seen the ice since due to an undisclosed lower-body injury.
While Regehr is more likely to return in Game Three when the series heads to L.A., the fact that help is on the way could only be an encouraging sign for top defensemen Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin. Doughty leads the Kings defensemen with a plus-6 and Muzzin is next up at plus-3, and they’ve been charged with shutting down Chicago’s top line of Toews and Marian Hossa, who chipped in with a pair of assists in Game One.
"Those two guys are probably one of the top two pairs of forwards, along with [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry," Muzzin said to the LA Times. "We've got to do the job on them because their team builds a lot of momentum from them."
Start Time: 8 p.m. EST
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream Info: A live online stream is available at NBC Live Extra here.
Betting Odds: Chicago -1.5
Over/Under: 5 goals
Prediction: LA over Chicago 2-1