|CHI Leads Series 2 - 1|
BLACKHAWKS at KINGS
(Chicago leads best-of-7 series, 2-0)
TV: NBCSN, TSN, RDS
Big story: The Los Angeles Kings have already been in a predicament like in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, coming back from a 2-0 deficit against the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Quarterfinals to advance in six games. The Blues, however, were more physical than offensively gifted and they simply weren't as balanced as Chicago. That's no slight to St. Louis, either. No other team in the NHL was quite as balanced in its scoring depth, defensive play or goaltending than the Blackhawks, who are starting to play that way again in the playoffs.
Since falling behind 3-1 in a tough Western Conference Semifinal against the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago has won five straight games to take initial control of this series against the defending Stanley Cup champions. The Kings, who played Game 2 on Sunday without center Mike Richards (upper-body injury), are a confident bunch -- but not even they want to fall into a 3-0 hole against the Blackhawks on Monday night (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Kings: First Richards was "fine," according to Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter on Sunday, and then he wasn't fine after taking pregame warm-ups at United Center. Sutter scratched him in favor of rookie Tyler Toffoli, who wound up scoring a late power-play goal in the 4-2 loss. Richards was hurt late in Game 1 on Saturday when he took a hard hit from Chicago's Dave Bolland, and his availability for Game 3 is still in doubt.
Regardless, the Kings need to be better in all facets and zones. They were thoroughly outplayed in both of the back-to-back games to start this series and need to tighten that up in these next two games at Staples Center -- where they've won 14 straight games dating back to the regular season, including the last seven in the playoffs.
Blackhawks: Ever since grinding out that grueling series against Detroit, the Blackhawks have steadily gotten back into the form that helped them churn out 77 points in the shortened regular season. The term "rolling four lines" isn't just a regular season thing to say for the Blackhawks, because it's actually how they play their best.
Sunday night in Game 2, they ousted Los Angeles star goalie Jonathan Quick rather quickly by scoring four times by the midway point of the game -- and did it with high-skill shots without the aid of screens on three of them. Quick, who is one of the game's elite goalies, will almost assuredly bounce back strong on Monday night. The question is about the Blackhawks and which variation of them will show up for the game. This is no time to start looking past the Kings, and they know it.
Who's hot: Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus have each recorded points in five straight playoff games, tying Hossa's career-high for the postseason and setting a new mark for Handzus. Patrick Sharp continued his hot hand in the playoffs by dishing out a pair of assists in Game 2 for his third straight game with at least a point (two goals, two assists). Blackhawks goalie Crawford edged past Quick by lowering his goals-against average in this postseason to 1.67 along with a .938 save percentage.
Injury report: Richards is the biggest question mark for either team.
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