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Blackhawks conclude Circus Trip with tilt in L.A.

by Emerald Gao /

By virtue of their 3-2 victory over Anaheim on Friday afternoon, the Blackhawks are now 3-3-0 on the Circus Trip with one matchup remaining. On Saturday night, they'll take on the Los Angeles Kings in the finale with a chance to make it seven straight years with a winning record on the annual two-week sojourn, now in its last edition (for now).

The Kings are on an upward trajectory, having won four in a row to slide into third place in the Pacific Division, two points ahead of Anaheim. They've outscored their opponents 15-8 in those wins, allowing exactly two goals in each tilt. Saturday marks the second meeting of the season between the two teams, after a 3-0 win for the Blackhawks on Oct. 30 at the United Center.

Chicago got a goal and an assist in that game from Jonathan Toews, but the captain is still questionable for Saturday's contest. He left Wednesday's game in San Jose early after taking an awkward fall and missed Friday's outing in Anaheim.

Entering the Circus Trip, the Blackhawks were hoping for offensive contributions from their large rookie class, and a few have stepped up and grown comfortable in their roles. Vinnie Hinostroza, who started Friday's game in the top center spot due to Toews' injury, had his breakout night in Vancouver, but perhaps the most impressive rookie of the trip has been Ryan Hartman. The 2013 first-round pick, known for being a pesky player who can put up points, has three goals in five games on the Circus Trip (he was scratched in Winnipeg), including the game-winner on Friday against the Ducks. Hartman also has 12 shots on goal over the five games, while his five goals on the season share sixth among league rookies.

After a slow start to the season, the Kings' offense has found its groove, led by veteran Jeff Carter. The 31-year-old leads the team in goals (9) and points (17), and has found line chemistry with sniper Tyler Toffoli, who shares second on the team with 13 points, and power winger Tanner Pearson, who ranks second on the team with 7 goals. Carter was named the NHL's First Star after putting up six points (4G, 2A) in three games last week, including game-winners in three consecutive outings, but was held without a point in L.A.'s 4-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday. With captain and usual points leader Anze Kopitar struggling to put up his typical numbers-he has just 9 points in 16 games this year-Carter's contributions have been paramount to the Kings' recent surge up the standings.

Corey Crawford was back in form on Friday, turning away 34 of 36 shots for his 10th victory of the season, and he'll take a much-deserved rest on Saturday. Scott Darling will make his second start of the road trip, looking to improve on his 4-0-0 record so far this season. His last start was the thrilling comeback win in Vancouver a week ago, in which he allowed three goals on 27 shots but kept the game within reach with several spectacular saves. His opponent in L.A. will be Peter Budaj, who shares second in the league with 11 wins on the season after taking over for injured starter Jonathan Quick. Budaj has started all four games during the Kings' recent win streak, stopping 99 of 107 shots over the span (.925 save percentage).

CHI: Jonathan Toews (upper body), Trevor van Riemsdyk (upper body), Jordin Tootoo (lower body)
LAK: Brayden McNabb (arm), Andy Andreoff (thumb)


Panarin -- Anisimov -- Kane
Hartman -- Hinostroza -- Hossa
Desjardins -- Schmaltz -- Panik
Rasmussen -- Kruger -- Motte

Keith -- Campbell
Kempny -- Seabrook
Forsing -- Hjalmarsson


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