Kings could get key piece back vs. Blackhawks
The Los Angeles Kings have put together their longest winning streak of the season and could be adding a key piece to their team.
The Kings may have Marian Gaborik in the lineup for the first time this season as they seek their fifth win in a row Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks, who hope to wrap up their final Circus Trip with a winning record.
Los Angeles (11-9-1) has outscored its opponents 15-8 while winning four straight, all in regulation. The Kings haven't won five straight regulation contests since Dec. 26, 2015, to Jan. 2.
The possible addition of Gaborik could keep the Kings surging, but a decision on him suiting up is expected to be based on how he does during a morning skate Saturday, according to a website published by the team.
"I feel good," Gaborik said Friday. "(Playing Saturday is) the plan, so obviously (Saturday) we'll have a morning skate and go from there, but I think I should be good to go."
Gaborik was placed on injured reserve Sept. 26 after breaking his right foot during the World Cup of Hockey, the latest serious injury in a lengthy list as he enters his 16th NHL season. A three-time 40-goal scorer, Gaborik needs 14 more for 400 in his career, and has 14 in 31 career games versus Chicago.
With Gaborik out and Anze Kopitar struggling (two goals in 19 games), Jeff Carter has been carrying the Kings offense. Though he didn't record a point in Los Angeles' 4-2 win over the New York Islanders on Wednesday, Carter had four goals -- with three game-winners -- and two assists in his previous three contests.
The Blackhawks have been able to contain Carter, holding him to one goal in the last five matchups.
Los Angeles was blanked 3-0 by the Blackhawks on Oct. 30 in Chicago as Corey Crawford recorded 32 saves. The Kings have won two straight, each by one goal, over Chicago at Staples Center.
With a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, Chicago (14-6-2) improved to 3-3-0 heading into the finale of its longest road trip of the season.
Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist in the win, and is tied with Artemi Panarin for the scoring lead on the road trip with four points. Among current Blackhawks, Kane is the leading scorer at Staples Center with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 15 games.
The reigning Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner has recorded at least two points in four of his last five appearances in Los Angeles, helping the Blackhawks to a 3-1-1 record.
A player who's blossomed during the road trip for the Blackhawks has been right wing Ryan Hartman. Three of his five goals have come over the last six games, including the game-winner against the Ducks.
"He gives us a little abrasiveness, some net presence, some presence in the puck areas," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said.
Also in remarks after the game, Quenneville said it was "likely" that Scott Darling would start in net against the Kings. Darling is 4-0-0 in six games, including four starts, with a 2.94 GAA and .904 save percentage, but 1-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA and .941 save percentage in two career starts against the Kings.
Crawford, meanwhile, is 6-2-0 with a 2.56 GAA and .900 save percentage in his career at Staples Center.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews missed Friday's game with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day. Toews, who failed to record a point through the first five games of the road trip, has just four goals and eight assists in 21 games this season.
His first goal of 2016-17 came in the win over Los Angeles in October.