After a stunning overtime victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, the Chicago Blackhawks will try to carry that momentum to the Staples Center for a late-night contest with the division-leading Los Angeles Kings.
The Blackhawks couldn’t solve Ducks backup goaltender John Gibson for more than 58 minutes before exploding for two goals in the final two minutes of regulation to earn at least a point. After a Ducks chance in 3-on-3 fell flat, Brent Seabrook made a great feed to Artem Anisimov for the overtime winner and two points for Chicago, which improved to 3-1-1 on the circus trip.
Los Angeles has one fewer point (27) than Chicago in one fewer game (22), but that’s good enough for first place in the Pacific Division. (The Blackhawks are eight points out of first in the Central and in fourth overall, for reference). After missing the 2015 playoffs and ridding themselves of the problematic Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards, the Kings have bounced back behind a solid start from some of their forwards, including offseason acquisition Milan Lucic.
I’d normally start by looking at the Blackhawks’ lineup, but I’m honestly not sure what purpose that would serve today. Coach Joel Quenneville mashed his line-blender button until it broke in Anaheim, and it leaves a lot of uncertainty for how things could look today. While the Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane line almost definitely stays the same, the rest of the forward lines are up for debate. We typically wouldn’t say that after a win, but the Blackhawks were shut out for 58-plus minutes yesterday, so the win was not a normal one. I’m going to hope Tanner Kero, or even Viktor Tikhonov, slots back in for Brandon Mashinter, but that seems unlikely.
The defensive pairings should stay the same, although the team defense was sketchy at times, especially in the opening period, in Anaheim. It’ll have to be a lot stronger today in front of Scott Darling, who will get the call on the second half of a back-to-back. Darling’s last start came last Friday against Calgary, in which he was saddled with a 2-1 overtime loss after the offense around him could do nothing against a poor Flames outfit.
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On to the Kings’ projected lineup.
Quick was first off the ice at Los Angeles’ morning skate, so he’ll make the start tonight. The Kings haven’t played since Wednesday, when they suffered a 2-1 shootout loss at Tampa Bay, so Quick should be well rested.
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The Blackhawks started their November slate with the Kings, and they’ll end it with the Kings. In the previous outing, the Kings tallied two first-period goals and carried a 2-1 advantage into the third, but the Blackhawks hit the twine three times in the final 20 minutes to grab the win at the United Center. Martinez and Kopitar scored in that game, with Muzzin picking up an assist both times, so it wasn’t exactly the usual suspects for L.A. in that one.
Carter and Toffoli have been the usual suspects against most teams this season, combining for 41 points while Lucic sits third on the team with 13. Doughty (12 points) and Muzzin (10) have been effective from the blue line, while the Kings’ first line has two double-digit point earners in Pearson (12) and Kopitar (11).
But the Kings haven’t potted many goals as a team, notching just 55 in 22 games, by far the lowest total among division leaders (the New York Rangers have the second-fewest with 70 in 23 games). Thankfully for them, their defense has fared well, allowing just 48 goals so far, and Quick has been alright in net, posting a .918 save percentage and 2.30 goals-against average.
Let’s head to the three Blackhawks to watch in today’s game.
November 27, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defensemanTrevor van Riemsdyk
(57) clears the puck against Anaheim Ducks left wingNick Ritchie
(37) during the second period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor van Riemsdyk
Friday’s game was not kind to the young defenseman from an advanced-stats standpoint. Only five Blackhawks finished in the red in Corsi-for against the Ducks, but van Riemsdyk’s minus-18 was glaring as he continues to try to settle in as the No. 4 defenseman. The Blackhawks will head home after today’s game, and that should help Quenneville dictate better matchups for van Riemsdyk. But it’d be nice to see him hop back on the horse, so to speak, against the Kings. It’d also be nice if the Blackhawks didn’t have to scramble the jets later in the season to fortify the blue line. Van Riemsdyk playing better would be doubly beneficial for the Blackhawks, as Q would probably go to Michal Rozsival at 4D if he’s seen enough of van Riemsdyk. I think I can speak for all of us when I say the idea of Rozsival playing 20-plus minutes a night is not one we want to visit.
Nov 21, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks defensemanAlexander Edler
(23) checks Chicago Blackhawks forward Marko Dano (56) at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
While Dano saw just 7:17 of ice time Friday (still more than Mashinter), he was noticeable in good ways during that action. He seemed very feisty in driving to the net and trying to make things happen offensively for the bottom six, an area the Blackhawks know they need more scoring from. Dano could see a little more time today simply because the Blackhawks are on the back end of a back-to-back, but I think he should see more time because he had a nose for the net — and trying to score a dirty goal — against Anaheim. Even if he still can’t crack eight minutes tonight, I think he’ll be someone to keep an eye on. The line blender could actually be his friend.
Nov 20, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) guards his net against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
The Kings produce quite a few scoring chances per game, as they’re third in the league in scoring chances per 60 minutes (29.7) and second in percentage of on-ice scoring chances for (54.2) per game. Darling typically sees the more scrub-like teams in his rare starts, but the Kings would not fall under the category. Darling is not as positionally sound as Corey Crawford and has lost his net at times in recent games. It hasn’t hurt him too much, but the Kings will make him pay for it if it continues tonight. Darling needs to stay tethered to his net if possible and limit the rebounds that were far too frequently seen against Calgary.