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Kings need to get nastier in Game 2 in order to achieve road split with Blackhawks

Harrison Mooney
Puck Daddy

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If you're wondering, Mike Richards is "fine", according to Darryl Sutter. He'll play in Game 2.

Late in the Blackhawks' Game 1 win over the Kings, Dave Bolland levelled Richards on a high hit (arguably made a little higher by Bolland making like a lord at Christmas and leaping). But Richards, like Bolland, who received no supplemental discipline on the hit, is none the worse for wear.

The Kings aren't dwelling on the hit, either. "I  really have nothing to say about it," Sutter said. "It's not an issue."

That's reasonable. There are, of course, more pressing issues at hand than responding to Bolland's hit, like, say, responding to the loss that came shortly after it. If the Kings can't do that, they'll find themselves going back to LA down two games to none.

Part of that response has to do with making their hits, not their opponent's, the talking point.

It seems clear after one game of this series (not to mention all the season and postseason that preceded it), that if this turns into an uptempo, skating series, the Blackhawks will have the edge. That's not how Detroit nearly upset the Presidents' Trophy champions, and it won't be how LA comes back to win this series, if they can. It'll be by slowing the game down, by forcing it to the walls, and then punishing the Blackhawks once it's there.

We saw a glimpse of the sort of game the Kings need to play in Game 1. It came right at the end, well after it could have mattered, when Dustin Brown levelled Jonathan Toews during a penalty kill in the game's dying seconds.

There was some chatter that the big hit along the boards was late, and that it came with a bonus elbow to Toews' throat. Toews addressed that prior to Game 2.

“Yeah, yeah, but we know that [Brown's] going to be looking for stuff like that," Toews said, via Mayor's Manor. "Just got to be aware of it. I think they were maybe a little frustrated we were moving the puck around the outside without even two minutes left to go in the game, just trying to kill time on the power-play. I kind of expect him to do something like that. We have to be aware of what they’re going to try and be physical on us.”

"I think we got to bring more physicality to the game than we did last time," said Dustin Penner, but for the Kings, it's not about physicality for physicality's sake.

In the second round, after Game 5 of the LA Kings' series with the San Jose Sharks, Todd McLellan spoke of the Sharks' need to turn up the pace, to ensure that the hits the Kings' high hit totals were because San Jose had the puck all night, and not because they were being too easily separated from it after allowing LA to slow the game down.

If you wanted a visual example of the difference, you got it in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final because the Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks' pushed the pace all night, and while LA dished out 44 hits, few were all that memorable. The only one anybody was talking about was the last one -- Brown's hit on Toews.

In other words, if the Kings hope to earn the split in this series' opening weekend set, don't expect them to come out looking to hit more. Expect them to come out looking to hit more meaningfully.

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