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Hawks try to break slump at Los Angeles

by John Kreiser

BLACKHAWKS (44-19-6) at KINGS (40-23-5)

Last 10 -- Chicago 5-4-1; Los Angeles 4-4-2

Season series -- It's the fourth and final meeting between the teams, with the home teams winning each of the first three. That includes the Hawks' 3-2 win in overtime last Tuesday at the United Center.

Big story -- Both of these teams are headed for the playoffs, but neither is playing well right now. The Hawks dropped their third in a row when they lost 4-2 at Anaheim on Wednesday night, while the Kings have been struggling over the last couple of weeks, winning just four times in their last 10 games. They've dropped to sixth place in the West and are just six points ahead of ninth-place Calgary.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks -- For a team that's cruising to a division title, the Hawks have hit a few bumps. They've dropped three in a row, losing once with 2.1 seconds remaining in regulation, once in OT after blowing a 3-0 third-period lead, and again on Tuesday when Saku Koivu scored the go-ahead goal with 5:36 remaining. Injuries are taking a toll on defense, and coach Joel Quenneville has yet to indicate that he's fully confident in either of his goaltenders, Cristobal Huet or rookie Antti Niemi.

Kings -- With days off at a premium the rest of the way, the Kings used their three-day break between Sunday's loss to Nashville and the arrival of the Hawks to recharge their batteries -- they have only one other two-day break for the remainder of the season. Monday was an off-day before they practiced Tuesday and Wednesday.

"The last 14 games now, it's a big push," coach Terry Murray said. "We've got a team coming in here, in Chicago, that has had a couple games here recently that they're probably a little upset about, so you know darn well they're going to come with their `A' game. We've got to be coming out with the same kind of effort.

Who's hot -- Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith has a goal and 5 assists in Chicago's last five games. Marian Hossa is 3-2-5 in his last five games, though he sat out Sunday before returning and scoring a goal on Tuesday. … Anze Kopitar, the Kings' top scorer, has 3 goals and 5 points in his last five games. Alexander Frolov has 3 goals and 9 points in L.A.'s last eight games.

Injury report -- The Hawks are running thin on the blue line. Brian Campbell won't be back until some time during the playoffs due to a broken collarbone, and Brent Seabrook left Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury. Huet sat out Wednesday with the flu and isn't likely to dress against the Kings. Callup Corey Crawford played in Anaheim, but expect Niemi to face the Kings.

Stat pack -- Los Angeles has won the last three games against Chicago at the StaplesCenter and is 4-0-1 in the last five. The Blackhawks are 0-2-1 in Southern California this season after Wednesday's loss in Anaheim. … The Blackhawks outshot Anaheim 41-36 on Tuesday, the 59th time in 69 games this season they've outshot the opposition.

Puck drop -- The Hawks couldn't hold a lead and had to go to overtime to beat the Kings last week and haven't won since. The Kings hope the three-day break will provide a boost as they try to hold on to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

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