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28-22-12

Blackhawks-Kings Preview

AP - Sports

The offensively challenged Los Angeles Kings addressed their needs with a blockbuster trade in hopes of boosting their postseason chances.

Jeff Carter is expected to make his Kings debut Saturday night against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks, who again will be without captain Jonathan Toews.

Los Angeles is in danger of falling out of the Western Conference playoff picture and ranks last in the NHL in goals. It has lost four straight and has scored one goal or fewer five times during a 1-4-2 stretch.

That prompted general manager Dean Lombardi to make a deal, acquiring Carter from Columbus on Thursday for defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round draft pick.

Carter had 15 goals and 10 assists in 39 games with the Blue Jackets. He's scored at least 29 goals in each of the past four seasons, including a career-high 46 in 2008-09 with Philadelphia.

"Even in the summer, I always felt we were a top forward away," Lombardi said. "Now, that said, I certainly didn't think we were (going to be) 30th in the league in scoring."

Though the loss of Johnson is a hit to the defense, Lombardi said he couldn't pass up a chance to acquire Carter, who will be reunited with former Flyers teammate Mike Richards. Both were shipped out of Philadelphia last summer, and Richards has been struggling with the Kings, scoring just one goal in his last 26 games.

"I think the only way that we can make this deal is because we have some young defensemen coming through the system," Lombardi said. "It kind of allowed us to reach out to a player of this caliber, who's still a young player barely in his prime."

Whether Carter can help improve the offense remains to be seen, though it can't get much worse.

The Kings (27-22-12) fell 4-1 in Colorado on Wednesday, and captain Dustin Brown seemed to foreshadow the Carter trade, saying the team needs to make changes if it hopes to qualify for the playoffs.

Drew Doughty scored the team's lone goal in the third period.

"We just have to keep moving forward," Brown said. "At this point of the year, we can't dwell. Our attitude as a team needs to change, and it needs to change quickly."

Things changed a bit too quickly for the Blackhawks in a 3-1 loss to Dallas on Thursday that snapped their four-game winning streak.

Chicago (33-22-7) led 1-0 on Marian Hossa's second-period goal until midway through the third before the Stars scored three goals in less than seven minutes - all on deflections in front of the net.

"Tough, tough, tough. Brutal," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Tonight, everything was going in a real good way, and then we had a third period that you wonder where that came from."

Toews sat out his second straight game with an upper-body injury and was involved in a one-car accident earlier in the day. He didn't suffer any additional injuries during the accident, though it added another element to his already mysterious ailment.

Reports indicate Toews is recovering from a concussion, though the Blackhawks have been mum on the details.

Toews won't travel with the team for a southern California trip that wraps up Sunday in Anaheim, nor will defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador.

The Blackhawks will be on the road for the first time since going 2-6-1 on a nine-game trip from Jan. 31-Feb. 18, though they won the final two.

Chicago has won four straight in Los Angeles, including a 2-1 victory Nov. 26.

The Kings ended a seven-game losing streak in the series with a 2-0 win Dec. 28 in Chicago. The Blackhawks are 10-1-1 in the last 12 meetings.

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