Kings-Blackhawks Preview


A coaching change appears to have woken up the Los Angeles Kings’ offense. Their biggest test thus far under Darryl Sutter will come at the home of the NHL’s top team and against the franchise that gave him his first shot as a head coach.

Los Angeles will try to snap a six-game losing streak at the United Center and a seven-game skid overall against the surging Chicago Blackhawks when the teams meet Wednesday night.

Los Angeles (17-14-5) improved to 2-0-1 under Sutter and 4-1-1 in its last six after topping Phoenix 4-3 on Monday. Four different players scored for the Kings, who had their highest scoring output since Nov. 17 – a span of 16 games.

“It’s nice to see a ‘W’ up there. … I want to over-emphasize the importance of producing more offense to win hockey games,” said Sutter, who won 110 games as coach of the Blackhawks from 1992-95, and has also coached San Jose and Calgary.

The Kings have scored seven goals on 98 shots under Sutter. Dustin Brown, who scored for a second straight home game Monday, said the team needs to keep putting the puck on net.

“We’ve been getting more shots on goal and keep saying ‘keep shooting the puck, it will eventually go in’ and (Monday) they started going in,” Brown said. “I think if we can continue that mentality, you are going to see us score more goals.

“Last week we had three 40-shot games and two goals – I don’t think that is going to happen if we can consistently put up 30-35 shots.”

That hasn’t happened much against Chicago. Los Angeles has averaged 24.8 shots and 1.50 goals during its 0-5-1 skid at the United Center, and 26.7 shots and 1.42 goals while going 0-6-1 over its last seven overall meetings with the Blackhawks.

With two assists Monday, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar has five during a four-game streak and 10 in 12 games this month. Kopitar, who hasn’t scored fewer than 20 goals in any of his five NHL seasons, has 10 goals in 36 games thus far in 2011-12 but none in 15 contests since Nov. 22 versus St. Louis.

Kopitar has four goals and three assists in nine career games at Chicago, where the Blackhawks (23-9-4) have cruised to a 13-2-3 record this season.

A 4-1 win over league-worst Columbus on Monday pushed the Blackhawks’ December record to 9-1-1. Viktor Stalberg scored twice, giving him four goals to go with three assists during a three-game point streak.

The Swedish-born left wing already has nine goals in 33 games after finishing with 12 in 77 contests during his first full season with Chicago in 2010-11.

“I think I’m playing all right,” Stalberg said. “The puck is coming to me now; guys seem to be finding me. We’ve got a pretty good chemistry.”

Stalberg assisted on Jonathan Toews’ game-wining goal in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory over the Kings on Nov. 26 in Los Angeles.

Toews has 20 goals in 36 games, putting him on pace for a career-best 46. He’s found the back of the net in three straight meetings with Los Angeles, and has nine goals with seven assists in 17 career games against the Kings.

Chicago has picked up 21 of a possible 22 points against Los Angeles since March 1, 2009.