The Chicago Blackhawks should be happy to be back at the United Center, but they might not be too thrilled about the opponent that awaits them.
The Los Angeles Kings come rolling into Chicago looking for an eighth straight win Monday night, while the Blackhawks will try to stop that surge with a sixth consecutive victory on home ice.
Los Angeles (7-3-0) opened the season with three ugly losses but has rattled off seven consecutive wins to rise to the top of the Pacific Division.
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The NHL’s hottest team has ridden its defense and goaltending to the league’s second-longest winning streak thus far behind Montreal’s season-opening nine-game spurt.
The Kings have allowed only nine goals during their streak after coughing up 12 in their opening three losses. Maybe the biggest reason is the man who’s been in net for six of those games.
Though he allowed three goals in Saturday’s 4-3 overtime victory over Nashville, Jonathan Quick has a 1.31 goals-against average and .955 save percentage in that stretch.
For Quick to keep that up, he’ll have to do it against a team he’s struggled to stop. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner has an .885 save percentage in his last 12 starts against Chicago (6-5-0), two-thirds of which have come in the postseason.
But Quick has an improving Los Angeles attack in front of him. The Kings have scored 18 goals in five games after putting up six in their first five. Tyler Toffoli has eight of Los Angeles’ 22 goals during the winning streak, including two against the Predators before Jeff Carter won it in overtime.
”We’re playing with a lot of confidence,” said Drew Doughty, who picked up the assist on Carter’s goal. ”We’re trying to do all the right things, and we need to continue winning.”
An added boost would be a victory over a Chicago team that has had the Kings’ number in regular-season play. The Blackhawks have won five of six during the season since the start of 2013-14, outscoring Los Angeles 20-10.
Chicago is still without Duncan Keith (knee) for a few more weeks, and in the last two games his absence has shown. After surrendering two goals in three wins without Keith, the Blackhawks have allowed eight in consecutive road losses – including three in the first period of Friday’s 5-4 loss at Minnesota.
"You win in this league by how well you check and how well you play without the puck," coach Joel Quenneville told the team’s official website. "But it’s two nights where we’ve given up some goals… Those things can’t happen if you want to be successful."
Chicago will be home for four of its next five, where it’s allowed four total goals during a five-game winning streak. Blackhawks opponents are 1 for 15 on the power play at the United Center this season.
Chicago converted its only chance with the man advantage against Minnesota and also got a pair of goals from Jonathan Toews. The captain has all four of his goals in the past four games.
Toews has 16 goals and 21 assists in 39 career games against Los Angeles, including the playoffs.
Corey Crawford figures to be back in net for the Blackhawks. He is 3-5-0 with a 3.60 GAA in his last eight starts against the Kings dating to Game 2 of the 2014 Western Conference finals.
The Blackhawks sent forward Bryan Bickell to Rockford of the AHL on Monday and recalled prospect Marko Dano. Bickell has no points in seven games this season after clearing waivers in October. Quenneville said Bickell is not injured and needs to work on his consistency if he hopes to return to Chicago.