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At the Rink: Blackhawks at Kings

by Curtis Zupke /

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings will likely get right wing Tyler Toffoli back for a crucial stretch of their season that starts Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks at Staples Center (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, SN1).

Toffoli, who skated in line rushes the past two days, was activated off injured reserve. He missed six games with mononucleosis and coach Darryl Sutter said, "It will take him a bit to get up to speed."

Sutter referenced Toffoli's inconsistency. Toffoli scored 10 goals in his first 25 games but has two goals in his past 16 games.

"I think he had a tougher time in the middle of November, middle of December," Sutter said. "It's his first full year in the NHL … he ran out of gas. A lot of them young guys [do that]. They went a long playoffs, those kids, and probably didn't have as much training and didn't put as much work in. They came back excited and had a really good start and leveled off."

Toffoli scored four goals against Chicago in last season's Western Conference Final. Including the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he has seven goals and six assists in 16 games against the Blackhawks.

The Kings don't have that luxury of time for Toffoli and their other forwards to get going. They are 2-4-5 in their past 11 games and 1-2-4 in their past seven home games, which has left them out of a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We've got a lot of work," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We've got to win a lot of games. But we're determined to do it, and I think we know we have the right guys in this room that can do it."

Doughty gravitates toward high-profile games. The Kings and Blackhawks have played each other in the past two conference finals and have won the Cup four of the past five years.

"Tonight could be a big time to finally turn it around," Doughty said. "It's a huge rivalry of ours now. This is one of the best teams in the League. I still think they're the best team in the League. If we can get a win tonight, that's really going to turn it around for us and get us on the right track."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville embraces the rivalry and the entertainment factor.

"Very intense games, very exciting, unpredictable," Quenneville said. "Games seem to be on the line from start to finish. Fast paced. Maybe a little too much goal scoring for coaches, but you expect a fast game and not a lot of time, and you expect a hard game."

Chicago has been in Los Angeles for two days to start a six-game trip and is ready to play.

"It seems like we've been here for like three days or four days and we haven't played a game yet," left wing Bryan Bickell said. "We're looking forward [to it]. The guys are excited. I think tonight's going to be a high-paced game with two teams that are excited to be back [and with a] playoff atmosphere."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Patrick SharpMike RichardsPatrick Kane

Bryan BickellAndrew ShawTeuvo Teravainen

Joakim NordstromMarcus KrugerBen Smith

Duncan KeithDavid Rundblad

Niklas HjalmarssonBrent Seabrook

Michal RozsivalJohnny Oduya

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Injured: Kris Versteeg (hand), Trevor van Riemsdyk (knee)

Scratched: Dennis Rasmussen, Tim Erixon

Suspended: Daniel Carcillo


Marian GaborikAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Dwight KingJeff CarterTyler Toffoli

Kyle CliffordJarret StollJustin Williams

Trevor Lewis - Nick ShoreJordan Nolan

Jake MuzzinDrew Doughty

Robyn RegehrAlec Martinez

Brayden McNabb - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Injured: None

Scratched: Jamie McBain, Andy Andreoff

Suspended: Slava Voynov

Status report: Quenneville said Teravainen will play right wing and not center … Versteeg started skating but Quenneville doesn't expect him to play on the trip … Sutter altered the lines with Brown moving up with Kopitar and Gaborik, and Clifford with Stoll and Williams.

Who's hot: Rundblad is on a two-goal game streak. Keith is on a two-game assist streak. Brown has a two-game point streak.

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