Jonathan Toews and Nikolai Khabibulin hope this trip to Staples Center goes a lot better than their last one.
On Saturday, they'll try to help the Chicago Blackhawks build off a shutout win as they face the Los Angeles Kings in a matchup of last-place teams.
Nothing went right for Chicago (28-26-6) on Jan. 1 in a 9-2 loss at Los Angeles. Toews suffered a sprained knee that sidelined him for 16 games, and the Blackhawks went 5-9-2 to fall to the bottom of the Central Division.
|The Blackhawks fell hard the last time they visited Los Angeles, losing to the Kings, 9-2. The two last-place teams will go at it again this afternoon. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)
Khabibulin faced nine shots in the first 15:04, allowing four goals before being replaced by Patrick Lalime, who stopped 12 of 17 shots as Chicago gave up nine goals for the first time since November 2005.
Toews returned to the lineup Feb. 10, and has two goals and three assists while the Blackhawks have gone 4-1-1. Though he's failed to register a point in his last three games, the third overall pick in the 2006 draft is second among rookies this season in goals (17) and fourth in points (37).
On Wednesday against Minnesota, Khabibulin made 38 saves in a 3-0 victory. It was his 37th career shutout, but only his second with Chicago and first since stopping 26 shots to blank Los Angeles on March 6.
"Quite honestly, I got lucky a few times," Khabibulin said after helping Chicago snap a nine-game losing streak against the Wild. "They hit the post three times and, one time, a guy had a wide open net and hit his own player."
Patrick Kane opened the scoring 3:49 into Wednesday's contest, and continues to lead all first-year players with 51 points (14 goals, 37 assists). Fellow rookie Dave Bolland had the first multigoal game of his NHL career.
While Toews and Khabibulin would like to forget last month's visit to Los Angeles, the Kings' Ladislav Nagy and Alexander Frolov probably cannot wait to see the Blackhawks after each player had five points in the rout. Nagy had three goals and two assists while Frolov scored twice and added three assists.
The Kings (26-34-3), who are last in the Pacific Division with a league-low 55 points, will look to Frolov and linemates Patrick O'Sullivan and Michael Cammalleri to lead them to their fourth win in five home games.
The line combined for 11 points on Thursday in a 5-1 win over St. Louis. Frolov scored three goals for his first hat trick since January 2006, O'Sullivan set career highs with four assists and five points and Cammalleri - who's missed 18 games this season with injured ribs and the flu - had a season-best three assists.
"We played great as a line tonight," Frolov said. "Cammy and Sully are very good players, and when they hold onto the puck and move their feet and make some plays in the offensive zone, things happen for us."
In 10 games this month, Frolov has seven goals and eight assists. O'Sullivan has three goals and eight assists in his last nine games.
Making just his third start of the season, veteran Dan Cloutier lost a bid for his first shutout since March 2004 with just over four minutes to play Thursday.
Cloutier missed more than half of last season with a hip injury that required surgery, and started this season in the AHL while the Kings went with Jason LaBarbera, Jean-Sebastien Aubin and rookies Jon Quick and Jonathan Bernier.
"I just told myself to stay positive and work hard, because you never know what could happen," said Cloutier, who had 32 saves.
Cloutier hasn't faced the Blackhawks since 2005, but has won five straight starts against them while posting a 1.97 GAA.