Five things to watch: Blackhawks vs. Kings

Five things to watch: Blackhawks vs. Kings
February 3, 2014, 5:00 pm
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LOS ANGELES — Another game night, another contest against a team that is struggling to score.

If this is sounding very broken record of us, it’s for good reason. Much like the San Jose Sharks, the Los Angeles Kings are struggling to score goals. Unlike the Sharks, the Kings’ losing skid is much worse. The Kings are 1-7-0 in their last eight games; for Blackhawks fans who still think Chicago is in a slump, that stretch is what we call a slump. In those seven losses, the Kings have scored seven goals; they have just one goal in their last three defeats.

So as we said, in the goal-scoring department (or lack thereof), the Kings are feeling like the Sharks were heading into Saturday’s game. And look at what happened there. The Blackhawks won’t be taking the Kings lightly, regardless of their scoring issues.

“They come at you; there’s not a lot of time or space. They play a tight checking game and we have to be ready for them,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We expect a real hard type of game. We expected the same from San Jose and that’s what happened.”

[MORE: Blackhawks' penalty kill regains new confidence]

That’s a taste of what to expect, anyway. And while we escape the chill of the Staples Center for a few hours — one of the coldest rinks in the league, surprisingly — we look at the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Blackhawks-Kings game.

1. While the goals are away, the physical side will play. Remember how the goal-challenged Sharks brought the hit parade against the Blackhawks on Saturday night? The Kings will be doing the same thing. Granted, the Kings are always a big, physical squad; same with San Jose. But as the Kings struggle to score, their chief goal will be trying to slow down the Blackhawks. That’s still the best way to do it.

2. Paging Mr. Bickell, Mr. Bryan Bickell… . OK, it’s not the first time we’ve thrown out the “Bickell has to be noticeable” sentence in a Five Things. But he really needs to get it going. Bickell’s been scratched in three of his last four games, he’s struggling mentally and he’s once again playing in a game that suits his style. He has to make an impact. Has to.

3. Plan on a long night vs. Kings goaltending. As much as L.A. isn’t scoring, its goaltenders aren’t giving up much, either. Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones each have three shutouts this season; former goaltender Ben Scrivens had three before he was traded to Edmonton. The Kings are allowing a league-low 2.07 goals per game. The Blackhawks, averaging a league-best 3.42 goals a game, will nevertheless have their work cut out for them.

4. Take advantage of the second period. The Blackhawks have been tremendous in the second 20-minute segment, with 77 second-period goals this season — you’ll remember four came against Vancouver last week. When the Blackhawks are leading after two periods, they’re 24-1-3. You see the math.

5. Our pick to click for tonight’s game is: the fourth line. The trio of Brandon Bollig, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith has been strong for a while, and especially on this road trip. We think it continues this evening. Yeah, we’re slightly cheating by picking three players; but we make the Five Things rules around here, so there.