Kings take on Blackhawks in bid for fifth straight win
CHICAGO — The Los Angeles Kings will go for their fifth win in a row when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday evening at the United Center.
Los Angeles (16-8-3) paces the Pacific Division of the Western Conference with 35 points.
The Kings have outscored opponents 15-5 during their four-game winning streak, and their plus-22 goal differential on the season ranks first in the conference and second in the NHL behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (plus-28).
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Yet Kings players know that a road win in the Windy City will not come easily.
“We always come here, it’s always intense,” Kings veteran forward Anze Kopitar told the team’s official website. “The building, it’s very loud. You’ve got to make sure that we’re ready right from the get-go because we all know they can score goals if you let them play their game. So we’ll go out there and compete and see what happens.”
Chicago (12-9-5) is winless in its past three games but has one point in each of its past two contests with an overtime loss and a shootout loss in a home-and-home series against the Dallas Stars. The Blackhawks will play on short rest after a 4-3 setback in the shootout round Saturday night in Dallas.
The Blackhawks return home without the services of top-tier goaltender Corey Crawford, who was placed on injured reserve and will miss at least a week because of a lower-body injury. While Crawford is out, Anton Forsberg will serve the role as No. 1 goaltender, and the team recalled Jean-Francois Berube from the AHL to be the backup.
Forsberg started Saturday but told reporters that he could start back-to-back games if that is what the team wants. In eight games (six starts), he is 1-2-3 with a 3.34 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. The 25-year-old never has faced the Kings in his career.
Berube, 26, could make his season debut if coach Joel Quenneville decides to rest Forsberg. Berube was 6-6-0 with a 2.54 GAA and .913 save percentage for Rockford of the AHL.
In 21 career games — all with the New York Islanders — Berube is 6-4-3 with a 3.11 GAA and .900 save percentage. He posted a victory in his only career appearance against the Kings as he stopped 34 shots.
Berube signed with Chicago this season and was sent to Rockford after losing out to Forsberg for a roster spot.
“It was good to play on a consistent basis,” Berube said to the Chicago Sun-Times. “For me, that was the most important thing, (after) not playing much the past two years. I wanted to get more games and get my game habits back. It’s one thing to practice, but when game time comes, it’s a whole different game. I feel comfortable with my game right now and I’m trying to push it forward.”
Veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick is expected to make his 22nd start of the season for the Kings. Quick is 12-8-1 with a 2.27 GAA and .929 save percentage this season. In 26 career games against the Blackhawks, he is 10-15-1 with a 2.71 GAA and .910 save percentage.
Chicago is 6-4-2 at home this season; Los Angeles is 9-3-1 on the road.
This marks the first of three regular-season meetings.