KINGS at BLACKHAWKS
(Game 1 of best-of-7 series)
TV: NBCSN, CBC, RDS
Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks won two of three games against the Los Angeles Kings this season, starting with a 5-2 rout in the opener for both teams Jan. 19. That was the day the Kings raised their 2012 Stanley Cup banner to the rafters and goalie Jonathan Quick was playing his first game after offseason back surgery.
The Blackhawks then beat the Kings 3-2 on Feb. 17 at United Center before dropping the last meeting 5-4 on March 25 in Chicago. Quick started all three games for the Kings; Corey Crawford went 1-1-0 for Chicago, and Ray Emery won the first game played in the Windy City.
Big story: After winning three straight elimination games against the rival Detroit Red Wings in a grueling Western Conference Semifinal series, the Blackhawks face another gritty, grinding defensive team, the Kings, who went seven games against the San Jose Sharks in the second round but had one more rest day. Chicago wants to push the pedal to the floor and force Los Angeles to play up-tempo hockey for 60 minutes, but the Kings are masters of brute, physical defense in front of Quick, their elite goalie and Conn Smythe Trophy winner from last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Kings: The talk going into the series is all about Quick's presence in net and the Kings' impressive defense, but L.A. has its share of offensive talent. Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and captain Dustin Brown -- not to mention Game 7 hero Justin Williams -- give the Kings more than enough offensive firepower up front. The back end has scoring options with Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov and Jake Muzzin. Though the Kings have struggled to put the puck in the net during the postseason, overlooking their offensive potential is a mistake. Besides, their outlook is only one more goal than their opponent is necessary with Quick in net and that suffocating defense in front of him.
"We could bore you all to death," Brown said Friday. "If we keep on winning, I could care less what people think of our game. We found something that's successful for us as a group and sometimes people don't think it's exciting. It depends on your opinion."
Blackhawks: If there's a concern for Chicago, it's how their legs will feel after a draining, physical series against Detroit. The Red Wings pushed the Blackhawks to the brink of elimination and forced them to bring their absolute best effort -- and then some -- for three straight games, culminating with Brent Seabrook's overtime winner in Game 7 on Wednesday. There's also a chance the Red Wings merely gave the Blackhawks a well-timed slap in the face to awaken them for the rest of the postseason.
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville wasn't pleased with his team's intensity after eliminating the Minnesota Wild in the first round and falling behind 3-1 in the series against Detroit. He likes what he's seen lately.
"I thought we progressed in these playoffs," Quenneville said. "I thought the last five games in that [Detroit] series were the way we have to play to be successful. We know we've got to be better, but we're excited about where we're at [now]."
Who's hot: Williams scored both of the Kings' goals in their 2-1 victory in Game 7 against the Sharks. Quick is tops among goaltenders in goals-against average (1.50), save percentage (.948) and shutouts (3). … Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp continues to produce, scoring his team-high seventh goal of the postseason in Game 7 against the Red Wings. Forward Bryan Bickell has five goals.
Injury report: Kings center Jarret Stoll (upper body) is day-to-day and no update was given on Friday by coach Darryl Sutter. Stoll did practice Friday at his usual spot on the third line. … The Blackhawks report no injuries serious enough to keep anyone out of the lineup.