Since the LA Kings visited the United Center on October 27th, the Kings went on a tear. Los Angeles won six in a row, followed by a six-game stretch in which they allowed the opposing teams to take 11 of the 12 possible points from them. The Blackhawks arrive in Los Angeles on the occasion of that 13th game, wondering if the Kings will break their streak of bad luck, or start a new one.
The teams that de-throned the Kings in that stretch were nothing to sneeze at, including Columbus and Montreal, both in the top four teams of their respective conferences. But the key to these wins appears, statistically at least, to be dependent on two players. With rare exception, the following maxim is true: if Jonathan Quick plays, LA wins. If Jonathan Bernier gets the start, LA loses. Chicago faced Bernier in their game at the United Center.
Tonight, the Blackhawks will face Jonathan Quick.
On the injury front, the Kings will be without winger Alex Ponikarovsky and defenseman Willie Mitchell, as well as forward Scott Parse.
The Blackhawks are surprisingly healthy, and fresh off a decisive and encouraging win against the Anaheim Ducks yesterday which saw more contributions from role-players — precisely what’s needed when super-stars are slumping. The exception to that was Patrick Sharp, who had a goal and an assist on Friday, bringing him up to 6 points in his last 5 games. Duncan Keith — reunited with defensive partner Brent Seabrook for the first time in seven games — netted his first tally in 12 games, and it was a short-handed goal to boot. Niklas Hjalmarsson and Troy Brouwer also contributed goals, and the overall effort was a substantial improvement over their game with San Jose.
Once again, I must single out the play of winger Viktor Stalberg, who is beginning to assert his size as well as his speed and puck skills. On one shift I watched him single-handedly pick the pockets of no fewer than five Ducks players, a sign that his confidence is high and his skill level is now being utilized to its potential.
I will also single out Nick Boynton, this time for not playing like niblet-infused diarrhea on skates. Granted, he wasn’t necessarily excelling in any area. But he did not hand the other team easy goals like he did on Wednesday. I think from this point on we can safely judge Boynton’s performance on a binary scale: as pathetically suck-bag as Bruce Cassidy, or not.
Late start again tonight on the west coast, 9:30pm Chicago time. Comcast SportsNet for the TV coverage; WGN AM-720 has the radio broadcast; and XM subscribers should look for the game on channel 206.