It's never just another game on the schedule when the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings meet.
The two Western Conference rivals will play Saturday at Staples Center, their first game since the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the Kings knocked the Blackhawks out of the Western Conference Final on their way to a second championship in three seasons. The year prior, it was Chicago eliminating Los Angeles in the conference final on its way to a second title in four seasons.
The rivalry isn't lost on either side.
"I said afterward it was the best series I'd coached in the playoffs, and I coached a lot of playoff series," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said to the Los Angeles Times on Friday. "That was, I thought, the best one in terms of it could have gone either way and going the whole distance, going into the overtime part of it. … They're still such a benchmark. Even though we're in different divisions, they're such a benchmark."
The game Saturday will be the second half of a back-to-back for the visiting Blackhawks, who defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 at the Honda Center on Friday behind two goals from Patrick Kane. It marks the sixth and final game of the Blackhawks "Circus Trip."
Corey Crawford will get his 14th consecutive start in goal for the Blackhawks. He played all seven games against the Kings in the 2014 Western Conference Final.
"We had some disappointment at the end of it all, but we're certainly excited about playing these guys," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told the Chicago Tribune on Saturday. "Regular-season games are as intense as our playoff games. It makes for a great contest, great showdown.”
Here are the projected lineups:
Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Marian Hossa
Kris Versteeg – Brad Richards – Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell – Andrew Shaw – Daniel Carcillo
Joakim Nordstrom – Marcus Kruger – Ben Smith
Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Rozsival – Adam Clendening
Scratched: Jeremy Morin, David Rundblad
Injured: Trevor van Riemsdyk (knee), Patrick Sharp (knee)
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Trevor Lewis
Dwight King – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Dustin Brown – Jarret Stoll – Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford – Mike Richards – Tanner Pearson
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Brayden McNabb – Matt Greene
Robyn Regehr – Jamie McBain
Scratched: Andy Andreoff, Jordan Nolan
Injured: Alec Martinez
Status report: Martinez skated in practice on Friday and Saturday, but Sutter said the defenseman is doubtful for the game against the Blackhawks, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Who's hot: Seabrook is riding a seven-game point streak (two goals, five assists), while Versteeg has nine points (three goals, six assists) in his last six games. Kane has six goals and seven assists in his last seven games.