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Kings confident they can match Blackhawks in depth

by Corey Masisak

CHICAGO -- Anze Kopitar is going to spend a lot of time playing against one of the best centers in the world during the Western Conference Final.

That's not a new development for the Los Angeles Kings center. He faced a combination of Joe Thornton and Logan Couture in the first round against the San Jose Sharks, then spent a lot of the second round matched up against Ryan Getlzaf of the Anaheim Ducks.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is generally considered one of the two best players in the NHL, along with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, so it is a slight step up in competition, but Kopitar has seen plenty of world-class talent staring back at him in the faceoff circle during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Chicago's top line of Toews, Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell won that matchup against Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown in Game 1, but for Kings coach Darryl Sutter, that's not something he's looking to fix heading into Game 2 at United Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS). The Kings trail the best-of-7 series 1-0.

"It's not that big a deal to us. I mean, [Kopitar] and [Gaborik] and [Brown], that's a good matchup for us," Sutter said. "I think everyone wants to see that. It's a pretty even matchup, I think. It's not that for us. It's after that."

"After that" has been a strength for the Kings during this postseason. Los Angeles has had plenty of balanced scoring behind Kopitar and Gaborik, who are 1-2 in the League in points during the playoffs.

Against the Sharks and Ducks, the other three lines eventually got rolling and proved to be a big difference in two seven-game series.

"I think that's a big part of our team, is our depth," Kings forward Trevor Lewis said. "We know what [Kopitar] is going to bring every night. We know he's playing against Toews, and they are two of the best centers in the world. It's up to the rest of us to beat our matchups and try to be on the positive side of that."

The Sharks and Ducks were deep teams, but the Blackhawks might be a slightly tougher test. They have the ability to put world-class players on any of the top three lines and possess the best depth at wing in the NHL.

Lewis is a perfect example of the depth and versatility on the Kings. He has played all three forward positions during this postseason and moved up and down the lineup. Mike Richards centers the fourth line but is among the Kings' leaders in time on ice. Sutter mixes and matches during the course of a game, pending a lot of different factors.

"I think [versatility] is a big part. There's a lot of guys on this team that can play center or wing and it doesn't really matter," Lewis said. "That helps us with matchups and combos out there with different guys on the ice. It's also good for right after penalty kills and power plays, because guys can get kind of tired and we can just throw guys together. A lot of the guys here have been around here a long time and are comfortable playing with everyone."

Here are the projected lineups:


Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown

Tyler Toffoli - Jeff Carter - Tanner Pearson

Kyle Clifford - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams

Dwight King - Mike Richards - Trevor Lewis

Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty

Jeff Schultz - Slava Voynov

Alec Martinez - Willie Mitchell

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones


Bryan BickellJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Brandon SaadMichal HandzusPatrick Kane

Patrick SharpPeter ReginKris Versteeg

Brandon BolligMarcus KrugerBen Smith

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook

Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson

Nick LeddySheldon Brookbank

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Michal Rozsival, Joakim Nordstrom, Jeremy Morin, David Rundblad, Klas Dahlbeck

Injured: Andrew Shaw (lower body)

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