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Blackhawks vs Kings - 2013 Western Conference Final

Kings' Richards scratched for Game 2

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Mike Richards was a late scratch for the Los Angeles Kings in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks after a quick conversation with his coach just before the contest was about to begin.

Mike Richards
Center - LAK
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 8 | PTS: 10
SOG: 22 | +/-: 4
Richards was on the United Center ice Sunday night for the pregame warmup, but he was removed from the lineup in favor of rookie forward Tyler Toffoli.

The Blackhawks won 4-2 to take a 2-0 lead in this best-of-7 series.

"He was fine today, then I think just once his blood got pumping tonight, the adrenaline got going, there were symptoms," Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said. "I went in right after warmup, he was sitting there and I said, 'Unless you're 100 percent, you're not playing.'"

Hawks looking to continue back-to-back dominance

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO - Any way you slice it, the Chicago Blackhawks' regular-season record is impressive.

They went 18-3-3 in home games and 18-4-2 in road games. They went 19-3-5 in one-goal games, 26-2-1 when scoring first and 10-4-4 when the opposition scored the game-opening goal.

That's not to mention the 10-1-1 record in the second game of back-to-back contests, which seems pertinent with the Blackhawks holding a 1-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings prior to hosting Game 2 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday night at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) - the second of back-to-back games here this weekend.

The Kings went 5-2-1 in the second game of their back-to-backs, but Chicago played in more and did better overall - right down to the lone regulation loss coming on the road against the St. Louis Blues on the last day of the season, when Chicago rested most of its starting lineup.

"[I've] never played back-to-back in the playoffs," Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said Sunday morning. "During this year, too, especially with the compressed schedule, a lot of games, maybe this year [more] than any year, we're more prepared for that type of mentality coming into the second game, two games in a row there."

Forcing turnovers in 2nd period turned tide for Hawks

Saturday, 06.01.2013 / 10:51 PM / Blackhawks vs Kings - 2013 Western Conference Final

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks peppered Jonathan Quick with shots in the first period Saturday, but many of them were from the perimeter and the Los Angeles Kings' goaltender had little trouble with any of them.

Chicago’s advantage in shots on goal dwindled in the second period of Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, but the quality of the Blackhawks’ scoring chances improved. Not coincidentally, the Blackhawks scored twice to take control of a game they were dominating everywhere but the scoreboard.

After Chicago's series-opening 2-1 victory, a couple of Blackhawks’ players said nothing changed about the way they were attacking, but Kings center Jarrett Stoll had a pretty good idea of what changed.

"Turnovers," Stoll said. "The second period there was a lot of choppy play in the neutral zone, hacking and whacking at pucks. They came up and put a lot of those pucks in, got them behind our defense, and therefore they scored a couple of goals off of it. Also we were playing more D zone than we wanted to. We've gotta get pucks in. We've gotta get our forecheck going, get our speed, big, heavy, physical game going."

Switching Bickell to first line a winning move for Hawks

Saturday, 06.01.2013 / 10:47 PM / Blackhawks vs Kings - 2013 Western Conference Final

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- There are moments of satisfaction in a coach's life, times when he makes a move that helps his team win. Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks had one of those moments on Saturday.

Quenneville rejiggered his lines for Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings, then watched each of his new pairings score a second-period goal in a 2-1 victory at United Center.

Quenneville moved 6-foot-4, 233-pound power forward Bryan Bickell from the third line to the top line with captain Jonathan Toews and two-way star Marian Hossa – then put Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane with 6-foot-5 center Michal Handzus.

"I liked it," Quenneville said of the bigger top line facing a more physically imposing team than Chicago saw against the Detroit Red Wings in the conference semifinals. "It was efficient. A lot of puck time in offensive-zone shifts. They're dangerous off the rush. Defensively, down low in our end, a lot of kill plays as well."

Kings know they need to be better in Game 2

Saturday, 06.01.2013 / 10:01 PM / Blackhawks vs Kings - 2013 Western Conference Final

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

CHICAGO -- The back-to-back games to start the Western Conference Final means the Los Angeles Kings won't have much time to dissect their play in Game 1. They don't need it.

The Kings know exactly why they lost, 2-1, to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday at United Center. They know exactly what they can't do in Game 2 Sunday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

"Too many turnovers, not quick enough, not physical enough and nearly not enough puck possession time," center Anze Kopitar said. "I thought we got a little bit better in the third, but [Sunday] it's gotta be 60 minutes."

The Kings have won their past six series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs because they have always found a way to get to their heavy, grinding, forechecking game. They never really got to it Saturday in part because the Blackhawks were quick with their transition game but mainly, some Kings players were saying, because they were uncharacteristically cute with the puck and it led to turnovers.

Defending champ Kings learned to deal with success

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- The Los Angeles Kings have grown fond of saying that last year they learned how to find success and this year they're learning how to deal with it.

The second part can be harder than the first.

"There is another level that an athlete should want to reach even after you've won [a championship]," Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said Friday. "To be part of a franchise in the mode of the [Detroit] Red Wings, [Green Bay] Packers or [New England] Patriots -- there is another level, far from being the best you can be as an individual and as a team. I think we're progressing toward that."

Lombardi isn't saying that because his team is back in the Western Conference Final, with Game 1 against the Chicago Blackhawks set for Saturday at United Center (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS). He's saying it because throughout the regular season and right into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he has seen that progression while watching them play from his spot high above the ice.

Five items that can decide Western Final Game 1

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks began this season the way the Los Angeles Kings finished the previous one.

Los Angeles steamrolled opponents in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, taking a 3-0 lead in each of its four series en route to a 16-4 record and the first championship in team history. Chicago followed the Kings’ record-breaking postseason with a historic start to the 2012-13 season, going 24 games (21-0-3) without a regulation loss.

Now these teams, the past two NHL champions to hail from their conference, will meet for the right to play for the Cup again in the Western Conference Final. Chicago is 6-1 at home this postseason, and Los Angeles is 1-5 away from Staples Center.

Game 1 is Saturday at United Center (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS), and Game 2 is the following evening. Here are five areas to pay close attention to in Game 1:

Combination of size, speed fits Kings, Blackhawks

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- In the latest episode of talking in circles with Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter, the focus Friday was on his team's size versus the Chicago Blackhawks' speed, a major point of emphasis in the pre-series breakdown of the Western Conference Final.

"If you actually look at it, their lineup that they had in their last game and our lineup that we had last game is identical," Sutter said. "The size is the same, so I guess we have a problem with their speed."

And how do the Kings plan on dealing with the Blackhawks' speed, starting with Game 1 at United Center on Saturday (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS)?

"Use our size," Sutter responded.

Blackhawks say series vs. Detroit was wake-up call

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- It's a question that's worth asking as the Chicago Blackhawks prepare for a tough, physical Western Conference Final against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.

Did the Detroit Red Wings wake up the Presidents' Trophy winners in their Western semifinal series -- or did they wear out the Blackhawks by forcing Chicago to win three straight games to advance, including Game 7 in overtime?

"I don't know," Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said Friday, pausing to think about his answer following practice. "I would say 'woke us up.' At some point in that series we had to start playing more desperate to win games. That's kind of what happened. They forced us to do that."

After being pushed to the brink of elimination with a 2-0 loss in Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena, the Blackhawks got off the mat and responded. They found a way to outlast the Red Wings and breathe life back into their Stanley Cup dreams.

Next up is an even taller order.

The physically imposing, defense-oriented Kings will be in the visitors locker room when the Blackhawks next take the ice Saturday at United Center for Game 1 of the series that will determine one of the Stanley Cup Final participants (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

Bickell the big body Blackhawks need against Kings

Corey Masisak - Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The narrative for the Western Conference Final is simple: the speed and skill of the Chicago Blackhawks against the size and physical play of the Los Angeles Kings.

Bryan Bickell
Left Wing - CHI
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 6
SOG: 18 | +/-: 1

That doesn't mean the Kings don't have some players with speed and skill who wouldn't mind playing the way Chicago and the Detroit Red Wings did in the Western Conference Semifinals. And Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell certainly isn't going to be sad about matching up with the rough-and-tumble Kings.

"Yeah, I think it is my game definitely," Bickell said. "The hitting is probably the main part of my game, whether to spark the team or just get separation for the guys out there. Finishing checks is a way to grind down their D and their forwards. It is my part of the game. It is going to be a physical series. We haven't had so much of that in the first two series, but we're looking forward to it."

At 6-foot-4, 233 pounds, Bickell looks the part of a Los Angeles forward. The Kings won the Stanley Cup last season on the strength of Jonathan Quick's goaltending, but also the physical play of their big, speedy wings who complemented a deep, talented group of centers.

There could be some thunderous collisions in Game 1 on Saturday at United Center (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN). The teams will be amped up for the start of a new series and looking to establish a tone.

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