A capsule look at the NHL’s Western Conference finals:
CHICAGO vs. LOS ANGELES
SO FAR: The Blackhawks eliminated Minnesota in six games in the second round after advancing against St. Louis in Game 6. The Kings rallied from an 0-3 deficit to San Jose in the first round and won the last two games of the next series to come back and beat Anaheim.
SEASON SERIES: Chicago won 3-0. The Blackhawks faced goaltender Jonathan Quick only once in the regular season, and beat him soundly. Quick allowed a season-high five goals, giving up two to Patrick Kane, in a 5-3 loss three months ago in the last matchup.
STORY LINE: The defending champion Blackhawks, who also hoisted the Stanley Cup four years ago, and the 2012 champion Kings meet in a Western Conference rematch. Chicago eliminated Los Angeles in five games last year and might have an early advantage with four days off before hosting Game 1 on Sunday against a team that has only one day off after a second straight series that went the distance.
CHICAGO’S KEY PLAYER: Marian Hossa. The veteran forward had six points in his first two games against the Wild, helping Chicago take a 2-0 series lead. He finished the series with nine points, giving him 11 this postseason to tie Brent Seabrook for the team lead. When Chicago won Stanley Cups last year and in 2010, Hossa contributed a combined 31 points. He has nine assists this postseason, matching his total from the playoffs last year.
LA’S KEY PLAYER: Marian Gaborik. The Kings acquired the forward from Columbus in March, and the move has paid off in a big way this postseason. Gaborik has an NHL-high nine goals in the playoffs – Kane and teammate Bryan Bickell are tied for third with six goals – and 15 points in 14 games. The defensive-minded Kings hope he can keep producing along with Anze Kopitar, who has a league-high 19 points in the postseason.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks in 6.
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