Kings-Blackhawks Preview

The Associated Press

A dramatic hat trick from Patrick Kane vaulted the Chicago Blackhawks back to the Stanley Cup finals at the expense of the Los Angeles Kings last spring.

The star right wing looks more than capable of another big performance Sunday night at the United Center as the Blackhawks and red-hot Kings meet for the first time since the Western Conference finals.

Chicago (23-7-5) ousted Los Angeles from the playoffs in five games in June on its way to a second Stanley Cup in four years.

Kane, who earned the Conn Smythe Award, capped his Game 5 hat trick with a goal in the second overtime for a 4-3 victory.

The Blackhawks won all three home games in that series, improving to 10-2-1 over the last 13 home meetings with Los Angeles.

Kane will likely play a part in continuing that success.

He has 10 goals and 21 assists with at least one point in 20 of the past 21 games, including 15 points during a nine-game run at home.

Kane has tallied 16 points during an eight-game streak overall, but his two goals weren't enough in a 7-3 loss at Toronto on Saturday that ended Chicago's three-game win streak.

"Not the start we wanted, getting the penalties and getting down a goal, then probably thinking too much offense as the game went on," Kane said. "The start wasn't good, especially the first 10 minutes. Three penalties kind of takes you right out of the game.

"We tried to fight back and get ourselves into it but it was too little too late."

A return home should help the Blackhawks, who are 6-1-1 in their last eight games there while averaging 4.6 goals and scoring 13 in winning the past two contests.

Patrick Sharp has been a catalyst over that stretch, totaling seven goals and seven assists. He seems likely to continue that production at the United Center since he has 11 goals and 21 points in 15 career meetings with the Kings, including last spring's conference finals.

Captain Jonathan Toews has 16 points in 14 home games against Los Angeles (22-7-4), assisting on two of Kane's goals in Game 5 including the series clincher.

The Kings, though, enter this meeting as one of the league's hottest teams. They have outscored opponents 23-7 during a six-game win streak overall and are 7-0-1 in their last eight on the road.

They haven't won seven in a row since a nine-game run Jan. 21-Feb. 6, 2010.

Los Angeles extended its current string by scoring three consecutive goals in the opening period en route to a 5-2 win at Ottawa on Saturday.

"We just keep winning," said Jarret Stoll, who scored in the third period. "There's just a bunch of things going right now. We just have to make sure we keep on top of it."

Anze Kopitar scored twice against the Senators, giving him four goals and one assist over the past four games.

He didn't fare too well against Chicago in the playoffs, getting two points in the series finale after being held without a point through the first four games.

Rookie Martin Jones made 37 saves Saturday to win his fifth start in as many games, posting a remarkable .967 save percentage. He could give way to Ben Scrivens with games on back-to-back days despite that success. Scrivens has allowed two goals or fewer in 11 straight starts.

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