Blackhawks at Kings
It took a few months longer than expected, but the Los Angeles Kings will finally get to raise the Stanley Cup banner when they open the regular season by hosting the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday afternoon. The Kings return most of the key pieces from last season’s squad, though the health of goaltender Jonathan Quick is a question mark. The Blackhawks, who won the Stanley Cup in 2010, return a strong team as well.
Quick underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back in August and has not had the benefit of rehabbing with team trainers during the lockout. The Connecticut native, who tied the NHL record for best save percentage during the playoffs last season, signed a 10-year extension with the team just before the lockout. Chicago has its own questions in net with the tandem of Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, who often failed to support the team’s high-scoring offense last season.
TV: 3 p.m. ET, NBC
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (2011-12: 45-26-11, 4th Central Division): Chicago could be a strong trade partner for Kings backup Jonathan Bernier at some point this season if Crawford can’t find the magic from his rookie season. Chicago has fewer question marks up front, where Marian Hossa should be ready to go after recovering from a brutal hit in the playoffs that forced him to leave the ice on a stretcher. The Blackhawks have plenty of firepower up front with Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp - and should be one of the top offenses in the league again. The one place they struggled was on the power play, though Viktor Stalberg is expected to step up onto that unit this season.
ABOUT THE KINGS (2011-12: 40-27-15, 3rd Pacific Division): Los Angeles is hoping that the long layoff did not make the Southern California community that embraced the team last spring forget about hockey. With the circus of the Los Angeles Lakers and the red-hot Clippers sharing Staples Center, the defending champs might have to fight for headline space. The Kings could be even better than last spring with Jeff Carter around for a full (although abbreviated) regular season. Carter’s arrival before the deadline helped boost an offense that was among the worst in the league before his acquisition. Los Angeles' leading scorer Anze Kopitar (knee sprain) has been skating with a brace in practice, but is unlikely to play Saturday.
1. Los Angeles took the final three meetings last season, winning the first two by a combined 6-0 score before scratching out a 3-2 shootout victory in Chicago on March 11.
2. Kings D Willie Mitchell (knee) is questionable for Saturday.
3. The Blackhawks have promoted C Dave Bolland to the second line.
Kings 3, Blackhawks 2