Kings face short turnaround for conference final against Blackhawks
Los Angeles Kings right wing Marian Gaborik, right, of Slovakia, celebrates his goal with defenseman Drew Doughty during the second period in Game 7 of an NHL hockey second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks, Friday, May 16, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Jay Cohen, The Associated Press
Published Saturday, May 17, 2014 3:59PM EDT
CHICAGO -- On Friday night, the Los Angeles Kings were in Anaheim for Game 7 of their second-round series against the top-seeded Ducks.
On Saturday, they travelled 1,700 miles to Chicago on the eve of Game 1 of the Western Conference final.
Not much rest for Los Angeles, but certainly better than the alternative this time of year.
The Kings take on the Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon in a short turnaround from their series-clinching 6-2 victory over Anaheim. It is a rematch of last year's Western Conference final, when the Blackhawks won in five games on the way to their second Stanley Cup title in four seasons.
"It's not going to be easy, but at this time of year, we know it's hard," Kings centre Anze Kopitar said. "You've always got to be excited when you get a chance to play the next round."
Los Angeles is making its third consecutive appearance in the Western Conference final after rallying past San Jose and Anaheim in the first two series.
The Sharks had a 3-0 lead in the first round and the Ducks led 3-2 in their series against the Kings.
Chicago has been waiting for its next opponent since it beat Minnesota 2-1 in overtime in Game 6 on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks had a similar break after they eliminated St. Louis in the first round.
"I think the days off helps every team this time of year, get some rest, allows you to prepare for your opponent," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "At the end of the day, once that puck drops tomorrow, I think both teams are going to be ready to play."
The break between series also provided more time for Chicago forward Andrew Shaw to get healthy. The tenacious centre missed the final five games of the Wild series with an apparent right leg injury, but he skated before the Blackhawks practiced on Saturday and could return against the Kings.
Los Angeles is hoping for the return of injured defencemen Robyn Regehr and Willie Mitchell. Regehr has missed the Kings' past six games, and Mitchell has been sidelined for eight in a row.
The status of Shaw, Regehr and Mitchell could be a factor in a matchup of the NHL's second-highest scoring team in Chicago and the stingiest team in the league in Los Angeles.
"L.A.'s really comparable to a St. Louis, maybe just a little deeper in scoring," Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg said. "That's why they're a little more dangerous. Have to respect their attack and that they're one of the best defensive teams in the league and physical as well."
Los Angeles was looking to defend its Stanley Cup title when it took on Chicago in the playoffs last year. But the banged-up Kings were unable to keep up with the high-flying Blackhawks, who got a hat trick from Patrick Kane in the clinching double-overtime victory in Game 5.
Chicago is 9-2 against Los Angeles over the past two years, outscoring the Kings by a 35-24 margin.
"They're playing really well right now so we've got to be focused on what they've been doing the last couple series," Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook said. "They're never out of a game or a series. If we get up, we have to step on their throats. If we're down we have to work like hell to get back.
"But at the end of the day we have to play our game and focus on what we've been doing well throughout the playoffs, get better at that and be the team that we can be."