NHL on NBCSN: Faltering Kings face rival Blackhawks

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign with Wednesday’s second game as the Los Angeles Kings host the Chicago Blackhawks at the Staples Center at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

While they would prefer to sit atop the Central Division, things are basically business as usual for the Chicago Blackhawks, who visit the Los Angeles Kings to wrap up Wednesday’s Rivalry Night action.

(Click here to read about the Washington Capitals hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins.)

Things aren’t quite as casual for the Kings, however. It’s true that Los Angeles has made a habit of grabbing an unimpressive playoff spot and running with it, but this season may just push that limit.

The Kings are currently sitting at ninth place in the West, three points behind the Calgary Flames for the West’s wild card spot. Sports Club Stats gives them slightly worse than a coin flip’s chance at making the playoffs, for what it’s worth. They may have a game in hand on Calgary, but the Flames hold the kind of tiebreakers (six more wins, four more in regulation/overtime) that give a quick argument for how much Los Angeles needs to improve.

Not that the Blackhawks are likely to take the Kings lightly, mind you.

Most obviously, Chicago remembers all too well falling to Los Angeles in that memorable 2014 Western Conference final series.

Beyond that, the Kings have been very tough at home, sporting a 15-6-6 record at the Staples Center. Considering how well-rested this group is (as opposed to Blackhawks team that almost sent a starting lineup to the All-Star Game), we should see the best Los Angeles has to offer tonight.

The Kings play their first game since sending Mike Richards to the AHL. Martin Jones is available to play if Los Angeles wants to move away from struggling starter Jonathan Quick. Corey Crawford is expected to be in Chicago’s net.

The Blackhawks took the first meeting between these teams, handling the Kings 4-1 in Los Angeles on Nov. 29. They face a far more desperate opponent tonight, however.