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Blackhawks hope Kane breaks out against Kings

by Shawn P. Roarke / Chicago Blackhawks

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Chicago Blackhawks have to be better in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final. Forward Patrick Kane knows the Blackhawks have little chance of being good enough if he doesn't lead the charge.

Kane has been strangely silent in the best-of-7 series against the Los Angeles Kings. He does not have a point and is minus-3. He has seven shots, but only a couple of them have been the type of Grade-A opportunities for which he is famous for producing.

Kane's struggles are just one of the reasons the Blackhawks find themselves in a 2-1 series hole heading into Game 4 on Monday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, RDS, TSN). But, he expects himself to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Monday night at Staples Center, he knows, would be a fine time to begin writing a new chapter in this evolving series of Western Conference behemoths. And, he has a plan to do it as well. He laid it out after a brisk off-day practice at the Toyota Sports Center, the practice facility of the Kings.

"Just demand [the puck]," he said. "That's the biggest thing. Demand the puck and when I do get it be confident with it. Those two things will generally lead to better games from myself."

Kane's line has been badly outplayed in the past two games of the series. Kane is a minus-4 in that stretch as the line of Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson has gone off for the Kings. Those lines tend to go head-to-head for the majority of the time during a game as it is a matchup with which Kings coach Darryl Sutter has been extremely comfortable throughout this series.

Fortunately, Kane has shown the ability to break out of slumps in stunning fashion.

His six goals in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs have come in four games. He has the game-winner in three of those four games. The overtime winner in the series clincher against the Minnesota Wild in the second round came after Kane had gone four games without a goal and was a minus-3 in those four games.

Last season in the playoffs, he had goal-scoring droughts which lasted six and seven games, respectively. During Chicago's run to the 2010 Stanley Cup title, Kane did not score in six straight games, bridging the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks and the Stanley Cup Final against the Philadelphia Flyers. He scored in three of the final four games against the Flyers though and scored the goal in overtime of Game 6 which delivered Chicago its title.

"He's got a knack for stepping up in the big times of the big games and score goals on the biggest stages," Chicago forward Patrick Sharp said. "We are not worried about Kane at all."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also senses Kane is due for a bit of puck luck. He has seen the dynamic wing win too many games with one sublime act of goal-scoring brilliance to lose the faith now.

"I think [Kane] had a great look both games," Quenneville said. "Right down the barrel, [he] could've given us a two-goal lead both times. He's had some opportunities. He's accustomed to scoring. For guys who are scorers, they get more excited, more confidence and their play can elevate by looking at production.

"Kaner, to me, he's dangerous. Opponents have to keep an eye on him quite a bit. They're concerned with him. He's been a threat, been dangerous. Hasn't had the production to reflect it, but he's definitely had some opportunities."

The Kings have taken Kane out of his comfort zone in two ways. First, they are using the dominance of the Carter line to force to play more defense than the Blackhawks would like to see their most dynamic offensive player have to do. Secondly, they are denying him clean possessions in the attacking zone.

"He's a player you've got to play hard on," said Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin, who has drawn Kane as a matchup regularly in this series. "He wants a nice game where he can do what he wants to do; and if you take that away, that's your best chance. So I know that's what I focus on, is being aware of where he is and what his options are and taking them away. I mean, that's all you can do.

"You have to play hard on that guy, or he'll make you look silly."

Kane understands he is marked man, but he refuses to use that as an excuse for his struggles. It is about adjustments, he says.

"Give them credit, they are playing pretty well," Kane said. "But, I think you kind of take it upon yourself when things aren't going well. I don't really go into a game and say they are doing this and that, so that is why it is affecting my play. It's usually on [you] personally.

"I've been through this a few times before. You kind of know how to get yourself out of it a little bit more than maybe somebody going through it for the first time. Like I said, get the puck, make plays, be confident with it and let my instincts take over."

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