By Adam Hoge-
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (CBS) Ask any Blackhawks player what they need to do Tuesday night to stop the Los Angeles Kings’ 14-game home winning streak and they’ll tell you they just need to worry about their own game.
But the reality is that the Kings are 7-0 at home and 1-7 on the road in the playoffs for a reason: they’ve played much better at the Staples Center.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a different game today compared to the two last ones,” Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said Tuesday morning. “I think we need to step up our game even more if we want to try to get a win out of this one.”
The Blackhawks were impressive while snatching a 2-0 Western Conference Finals lead on the Kings in Chicago, but as much as they are worrying about their own game tonight, they need to be ready for a Kings team that is bound to provide more resistance at home.
“We played better hockey at home,” Kings forward Dustin Brown said. “I think part of it is we get on the forecheck better.”
And therein lies the biggest question for the Kings tonight at the Staples Center: down 2-0, do they play it safe or get aggressive in the Blackhawks’ zone?
The Kings’ problems in Chicago started in the neutral zone where turnovers led to goals for the Blackhawks. To adjust, expect the Kings to make a bigger effort to get pucks deep into the Hawks’ zone in Game 3.
“Making them go 200 feet for all their chances will go a long way,” Brown said. “I think that will come out in the game.”
But will the Kings go hard after those pucks on the forecheck or play more of a defensive style? The Blackhawks are quick enough to retrieve and transition the other way and the Kings already showed in Game 2 that they will lose if they try to skate with the Hawks. On the other hand, the Kings are already struggling to score, so being more patient is somewhat of a scary thought.
“We expect them to go to the net hard,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. “We expect them to get their forecheck going, spend time in our end. But I think we want to make sure that we spend some time in their end. Hopefully they’re not in attacking us all night long.”
It might be ugly, but the best solution for the Kings is probably to play defensive and agitate the Blackhawks by being more physical. Of course, that might be asking a lot for a team that is beat up and tired after two grueling series with the Blues and Sharks.
And if the Kings can’t play that way for 60 minutes, then they better hope goaltender Jonathan Quick plays much better than he did Sunday night in Chicago.
Otherwise, this series might not go back east.
Richards Out Again
Kings head coach Darryl Sutter ruled center Mike Richards (concussion) out for his second straight game.
“If it’s just about Mike Richards, Mike Richards making the decision, Mike Richards is playing tonight,” Sutter said.
But it wasn’t Richards’ decision and he’s not playing. Jeff Carter is expected to play center again in his absence.
Don’t expect any changes to the Blackhawks’ lines. The top four forward lines should remain like this:
Bickell – Toews – Hossa
Sharp – Handzus – Kane
Saad – Shaw – Stalberg
Kruger – Bolland – Frolik
For more Blackhawks coverage throughout the playoffs, follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamHoge.