Kings host Blackhawks in rematch of West finals

( – The last time the Los Angeles Kings and Chicago
Blackhawks faced off, a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals was on the line.

The two clubs meet for the first time since last season’s Western Conference
finals as the Kings host the Blackhawks in Chicago’s final stop on its annual
Circus Trip.

While the Blackhawks have had the upper hand in this series during the regular
season — winning 12 of the past 16 encounters overall and six of the last
seven played in Los Angeles, the Kings came through when it mattered most last

Los Angeles built a 3-0 series lead before Chicago rebounded with a pair of
wins, taking Game 5 in double overtime and then winning a 4-3 decision in Game
6 in L.A. to send the series to a decisive seventh game.

The Kings and Blackhawks then saw their Game 7 meeting go to overtime, where
defenseman Alec Martinez punched his club’s ticket to the Cup Finals.

Los Angeles knocked off the New York Rangers in five games to win the Stanley

While the Kings were able to defeat the Blackhawks in Chicago to advance in
the postseason, they’ll probably be glad they are hosting tonight’s contest.
Los Angeles is just 2-4-4 on the road this season compared to 10-2-1 at home,
where it will play two straight and three of its next four.

The Kings picked up that second road win on Wednesday, salvaging the finale of
a three-game swing with a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Wild. Mike Richards,
Dustin Brown, Tyler Toffoli and Justin Williams all scored first-period goals
and Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and fifth
of his career.

“They’re a pretty good rush team and we forced them into turnovers which
allowed us to have our own rush game, which is generally how we produce a lot
of goals,” said Brown.

Brown potted the 200th goal of his career, while Williams has three goals and
four assists over a six-game point streak.

Jones, meanwhile, made back-to-back starts for the first time since Dec.
10-11, 2013, but No. 1 Jonathan Quick figures to return to net tonight.

Quick is 6-12-1 with a 2.76 goals against average, .910 save percentage and
two shutouts in 19 regular-season meetings with the ‘Hawks, including 18

Chicago enters Saturday’s showdown having won two straight and five of its
last six games.

The Blackhawks are 4-1-0 on their six-game swing with the only loss of the
trip coming Sunday in Vancouver. Chicago has rebounded from that setback by
notching consecutive wins in Colorado and Anaheim.

Joel Quenneville’s club turned in an impressive win over the Ducks on Friday
afternoon, picking up a 4-1 triumph in Orange County.

Patrick Kane scored twice while Brad Richards and Andrew Shaw each had a goal
and an assist to help fuel Chicago’s offense, which has put up 25 goals over
the past six contests. The Blackhawks, who are averaging 2.91 goals per game
this season, fired 38 shots on net Friday.

“That start was huge. It seems like things always trend upward for our team
when we have good starts like that,” said Kane.

Corey Crawford, meanwhile, only needed to stop 23 shots to pick up the win for

Crawford could get a rest tonight as Antti Raanta is expected to make his
first appearance since Oct. 25 when he made 28 saves in loss against the
Blues. Raanta was slated to start last Saturday’s game in Edmonton, but came
down with an illness and had to be scratched in favor of Crawford, who has
started 17 of the Blackhawks’ 23 games this season. He was able to return to
his backup role for Friday’s tilt in Anaheim.

The Finnish netminder is 1-2-0 with a 2.03 GAA this season. He also has
excellent career numbers against L.A., going 2-0 with a .50 GAA and a shutout
in two lifetime appearances versus the Kings. In total, Raanta has stopped 47-
of-48 shots against L.A.