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Kings aim to hold home-ice edge vs. Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger


(Best-of-7 series tied 1-1)


Big story: The Los Angeles Kings now have the home-ice advantage, but the Chicago Blackhawks could take it right back by winning one or both of the next two games at Staples Center. The question is how the defending Stanley Cup champions will respond in Game 3 after watching the Kings score six straight goals in the final 22 minutes of Game 2 to earn a split of the first two games in Chicago.

"They're the defending Stanley Cup champions, we're well aware of how good a team they are and also how they're going to be able to battle adversity," Kings captain Dustin Brown said after practice Friday. "We try and put ourselves in their situation. If we had six unanswered goals against us, how would we come out and want to play in Game 3? I think we're well aware of how hard Game 3 is going to be."

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Chicago's penalty-killing was nearly impenetrable in the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs; it was the best in the NHL entering the conference finals. The Blackhawks are still the NHL's top penalty-killing team, but they need to counter an effective adjustment in Game 2 by L.A. that led to power-play goals on back-to-back opportunities.

The easiest method is to refrain from taking sloppy penalties, such as the two that led to those goals. But assuming they Blackhawks will be shorthanded at some point, their penalty-killers will probably have to deal with two players in front of goalie Corey Crawford again, rather than one. That change in strategy worked for the Kings in Game 2, and the goals that were scored changed the game in less than four minutes.

"[You've] got to give L.A. some credit," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "They have a good power play. We could've done a better job on the goals they did score, maybe they could've gotten one earlier, but overall we want to stay out of the penalty box. Sometimes you can gain momentum off a good penalty kill. Penalties are going to happen. For the most part, we want to stay out of the box."

Chicago expects to get scrappy, versatile forward Andrew Shaw back into the lineup after a lower-body injury that kept him out since Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round, which will add another body in front of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.

Kings: Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter will get the matchup advantage with the last line change, which should be interesting.

In Chicago, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville put his top line, centered by Jonathan Toews, against the Kings' top line centered by Anze Kopitar. They canceled each other out in Game 2, which left a battle of the next three lines that Los Angeles won thanks to the second line centered by forward Jeff Carter.

Rookies Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli are Carter's wings on that unit, which produced four goals and seven points Wednesday. In Game 3, they might wind up with a bigger challenge: They could play more against Toews' line if Sutter has Kopitar's group avoid Chicago's top line.

"I think what gets overlooked with Jeff Carter is ... Jeff Carter was the leading goal-scorer in our conference last year," Sutter said. "I know a lot of talk in this series has been about a player on their team [Toews] and a player on our team [Kopitar], but Jeff Carter is just as important to our team as both of those players that everybody is talking about. Those kids [Pearson and Toffoli] are getting the opportunity to play with a top player in the Western Conference. That pretty much speaks for [itself]."

Who's hot: Carter had a hat trick in Game 2, scoring three of L.A.'s five goals in the third period. He also scored a goal in Game 1 and has seven goals and nine assists in the playoffs. … Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy scored his first goal of the postseason on a breakaway in Game 2 during a power play.

Injury report: Shaw (lower body) is expected to play in Game 3 after missing seven straight playoff games for the Blackhawks, who report no other injuries. … Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr remains sidelined with a knee injury he sustained in Game 1 of a second-round series against the Anaheim Ducks. He hasn't resumed skating yet.

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