Blackhawks enjoying strong run entering tilt with Kings
Near the end of a disappointing season from a pair of former NHL powers, the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have shown most recently that they are not done exploring their capabilities.
The winners of every Stanley Cup title from the 2011-12 to 2014-15 seasons will meet Saturday night in Los Angeles coming off spirited performances.
The Blackhawks enter off a 5-4 victory at San Jose, dealing a major blow to the Sharks' Pacific Division title hopes. The Kings were eclipsed in a shootout at Vancouver on Thursday in an energetic contest full of physicality, which also included a clutch game-tying goal inside of nine minutes remaining from Adrian Kempe.
The Blackhawks had lost four of five heading into Thursday's game at San Jose, but they are still 7-3-1 over their last 11 games with one of the setbacks occurring in overtime.
Alex DeBrincat scored a pair of goals against San Jose, giving the second-year player the first 40-goal season of his career.
Odds remain long of jumping two teams in the standings and catching the Colorado Avalanche for the final Western Conference wild-card spot with a little more than a week remaining in the season, but the Blackhawks sound as if they will treat Saturday's game as if it is key to their postseason hopes.
"It's a big win; every game is big right now," Chicago center Jonathan Toews said after the victory at San Jose. "Obviously our last loss (at Arizona) was tough and it puts us in a tough position, but were not accepting any fate anytime soon so it's a big won for us to stay alive and keep that morale up."
The Kings, already eliminated from playoff consideration, are also coming off a milestone game. When right wing Dustin Brown hit the ice at Vancouver on Thursday he became the Kings' franchise leader in games played with 1,112, passing Dave Taylor (1977-94).
Brown had a chance to win Thursday's game in the third round of the shootout, but his shot was saved by Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko. Tanner Pearson followed with his game-winner off the glove of Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
"I've had great teammates from very early on in my career, through the championship years, and even today as were trying to get back there," Brown said on the Fox Sports West broadcast. "It's been a struggle but my teammates have been the best."
The game has become more speed and skill oriented since he entered the league, but Brown has managed to adapt and stay relevant.
"As long as you have a learner's mindset, I think you can keep on getting better, even if you're getting older," Brown said. "Eventually your body is going to slow down, but there are little intricacies in the game you can work on to maybe stick around a little longer if you're willing to do the work."
Entering Saturday's game, Blackhawks left wing Drake Caggiula remains day-to-day after a concussion from one month ago. Kings left wing Brendan Leipsic also is day to day with a lower body injury.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 29, 2019