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Blackhawks' road trip continues vs. Kings

by David Kalan

BLACKHAWKS (33-10-14) at KINGS (30-21-6)


Last 10: Chicago 4-2-4; Los Angeles 2-7-1

Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks have won each of their games this season against the Los Angeles Kings. This will be the last regular-season meeting between the two teams in 2013-14.

Big story: Previously in the race to win the Pacific Division crown, the Kings are reeling after their third straight loss and a once-certain berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is now getting closer to a question mark. Los Angeles will try to right the ship before the impending Olympic break when it hosts a Chicago team that has also been plagued by inconsistency of late, winning once in its past six games.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Chicago is currently enduring its second lengthy road trip of the season, taking a swing out west while "Disney on Ice" occupies United Center. The road trip presents another obstacle as the Blackhawks try to snap out of a funk that has jeopardized their standing atop the division.

Chicago has four regulation wins in 2014, a span of 15 games, and as a result the Blackhawks' division lead over the second-place St. Louis Blues has shrunk to one point, while the Blues also hold a potential tiebreaker advantage and have three games in hand.

In Chicago's most-recent game Saturday night, the Blackhawks lost to the San Jose Sharks, 2-1, in a shootout, something that has been something of an Achilles' heel for the team all season. The Blackhawks have a 5-8 record in games tied after overtime, meaning several points in the standings have been left on the table which could otherwise have given Chicago a cushion in the division race.

"The way overtime has gone with us it's a little disappointing," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said afterward, "but we've been doing some good things 5-on-5 during the game."

The Blackhawks will also visit the Anaheim Ducks and Phoenix Coyotes before the Olympic break and will then open the second half in New York to face the Rangers before returning home to Chicago.

Kings: Los Angeles has seen its fortunes tumble dramatically in recent weeks; the Kings have gone 1-7-1 in their past nine games. The prolonged slump has dropped L.A. well behind the Ducks and Sharks in the Pacific Division, but the bigger concern might be the teams behind the Kings rather than in front of them. The Vancouver Canucks and Coyotes are three and four points behind L.A., respectively, and each team has at least a game in hand on the Kings.

The Kings' 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon was its second in a row to open up a four-game homestand that will carry them to what could be a much-needed Olympic break.

"I'm pretty frustrated, but like I said, you've got to get over it," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said afterward. "You've got to get past it. This can make us stronger. Going through this little slip, it seems like it happens every year with the Kings at some point. We're going turn this thing around and we're going to go the other way with it and become better from it."

The biggest culprit for the Kings' current skid is likely a lack of offense. Los Angeles hasn't scored two goals in a game since a 5-3 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Jan. 21.

Who's hot: Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad has three goals and two assists in the past three games.

Injury report: Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (rotator cuff surgery) is out for the season. … The Kings are healthy.

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