Tonight on NBCSN, it’s the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the Los Angeles Kings at 8:30 p.m. ET. Following are some game notes, as compiled by the NHL on NBC research team:
• Back at United Center: This is the 3rd and final meeting of the season (each has 1 regulation win), but the first game at United Center since June 1, 2014 – Game 7 of last year‟s Western Conf. Final, which LA won 5-4 (OT).
• LA’s playoff push: The Kings are ending a 5-game road trip today (3-1-0 record thus far).
• The Kings swept NJ, NYR, and NYI on the same road trip for the 3rd time in franchise history. They are just one of three teams all-time to accomplish that feat (NSH, ANA). However, LA‟s winning streak was snapped on Saturday in the loss to MIN.
• LA has once again fallen outside the playoff picture, however the Kings have a game in hand on both the Flames and the Jets. In addition, the Kings lead the tiebreaker (ROW) against Winnipeg. A win tonight would put the Kings back in the playoffs (Wild Card if CGY also wins, 3rd in Pacific if CGY loses).
• Tonight ends the Kings’ most challenging remaining stretch schedule-wise. Four of their final 6 games after tonight are against teams out of the playoff race (EDM twice, COL, SJ). The other two games are crucial Pacific Division matchups and could determine LA‟s fate this season – at Vancouver in a week and at Calgary in the Kings’ penultimate game of the regular season.
• Late-season surges have been LA‟s identity in each of the past 3 seasons, as they have not clinched a playoff spot until the very end of the season.
• The Kings can become the first repeat champ since DET won in 1997 & 1998…on the other end of the spectrum, they could become only the 4th team since the 1967-68 expansion to miss the playoffs the season after winning the Cup, joining CAR (2006-07), NJ (1995-96) & MTL (1969-70).
• Chicago battling for position: Though the Hawks have won just twice in their last 5 games (2-3-0 record), they are coming off a come-from-behind 4-3 win in Winnipeg yesterday. While still 3rd in the Central, Chicago is under pressure from Minnesota (26-6-2 since Jan. 15 – most wins in NHL), and must keep winning to avoid being a Wild Card team. The Hawks have a game in hand on the Wild and one more matchup this season.
• Without Patrick Kane: After last night’s win, Chicago has now gone 9-4-1 without its leading scorer. Kane underwent successful surgery on Feb. 25 to repair his left clavicle fracture and was expected to be out 12 weeks from that time. That timetable likely puts Kane out until at least the WC Final. While he has been on the ice since, there is no change in the prognosis. At the time of the injury, Kane was tied for the league lead in points with 64 in 61 games.
• For the better part of March, Chicago had been winning games with improved defense to make up for the dip in scoring caused by Kane’s absence. Though those trends over the 14 games without Kane still hold, recently the Hawks have seen different results.
• Before the 4-goal outburst yesterday, the Hawks had scored 7 goals in the 5 previous games. And CHI now has allowed 12 goals over its last 3 games – it had allowed just 13 in the 9 games before that.
KINGS TEAM/PLAYER NOTES
• Jonathan Quick ranks 2nd in the NHL with 65 starts this season, which includes his current run of 14 straight. He was pulled after the first period against MIN – he stopped 7 of 9 shots. Despite the loss Saturday, Quick‟s play since Feb. 7 (the start of LA‟s season-high 8-game win streak) has sparked the Kings’ turnaroud
• This season vs. CHI: 1-1-0 record, 3.03 GAA, .887 SV%. This includes a 26-save performance in the most recent meeting (4-3 Kings win on Jan. 28).
• Regular season career vs. CHI: 7-13-1 record, 2.79 GAA, .908 SV%.
• Including playoffs, Tyler Toffoli has 15 points (8 goals) in 17 career games against the Blackhawks.
• Anze Kopitar has led the Kings in scoring each of the past 7 seasons, and his 60 points this season also leads the team. Kopitar had a 5-game point streak snapped in the loss to the Wild, but he still has 6 points in the 4 games on this road trip.
CHICAGO TEAM/PLAYER NOTES
• Since Kane was injured, 3 Hawks have stepped up offensively – captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Andrew Shaw. All 3 players scored in yesterday’s win.
• Toews – a Winnipeg native – scored the game-winning goal with 31 seconds left in regulation yesterday.
• Sharp went 19 games without a goal from Jan. 30 to March 12 (2nd-longest drought of career), but he now has 4 goals (and 4 assists) in the 8 games since, including the game-tying goal on a 3rd-period breakaway yesterday.
• Shaw had gone 13 straight games without a point leading up to Kane’s exit from the lineup. He has 7 points (5 goals) in the 14 games without number 88, including 4 goals in the last 4 games.
• Goaltender Corey Crawford has made 5 straight starts, and though he picked up the win yesterday stopping 31 of 34 shots, he has allowed 3+ goals in 4 of those 5 games.