The defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings remained perfect at home after securing a Game 3 victory at the Staples Center, but can they get the job done in Game 4? The Chicago Blackhawks got a lot of chances in Game 3, but the Kings were able to play their first complete game of the series.
The Kings' power play remained anemic and the Blackhawks' penalty kill was still stellar, but will that change in a pivotal Game 4?
Time: Thursday, June 6, 9 p.m. ET
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
Series: CHI leads LAK 2-1
TV: NBC Sports Network
Kings Remain Perfect At Home
The Kings have a chance to get back in this series because of their dominance at home, but they will ultimately have to steal a game at the United Center in Chicago. Right now, it is uncanny how good they have been at home and how different they look on the road, but it won't matter if they tie the series.
Throughout the playoffs, the Kings have been streaky, and a win could really give them some needed momentum to get back on track.
Key Matchup: Battle of The Third Lines
The non-traditional third lines are going to be vital in Game 4. Anze Kopitar is now anchoring the unit, and he adds offense and creativity to the bottom six. Kopitar will have a chance to exploit the Blackhawks' bottom defense pairings, and he could also make his linemates better.
Chicago's line of Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik has played well, and they can do damage against the Kings' third line. Saad has gotten stronger as the playoffs have progressed, and he is a stealthy scorer who can quietly make an impact in the bottom six. He only has four points, but a reduction in minutes has allowed him to play a niche role in the bottom six.
In the playoffs, depth is very important, and each team's third line is very deep. Having Kopitar and Saad in third-line roles is not optimal, but it adds a different dimension to each lineup.
Injury Report (via TSN.com)
Los Angeles Kings
Mike Richards: Missed Game 3 with concussion-like symptoms.
Blackhawks' Projected Lineup
Line 1: Bryan Bickell, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa
Line 2: Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus, Patrick Kane
Line 3: Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger, Michael Frolik
Line 4: Andrew Shaw, Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg
Line 1: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook
Line 2: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Johnny Oduya
Line 3: Michal Rozsival, Nick Leddy
Kings' Projected Lineup
Line 1: Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams
Line 2: Dwight King, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli
Line 3: Dustin Penner, Anze Kopitar, Trevor Lewis
Line 4: Kyle Clifford, Colin Fraser, Brad Richardson
Line 1: Drew Doughty, Robyn Regehr
Line 2: Rob Scuderi, Slava Voynov
Line 3: Matt Greene, Jake Muzzin
Blackhawks Will Win If...
The Blackhawks will head back to the United Center with a chance to finish the Kings off if they capitalize on the power play. In Game 3, a power-play goal would have given the Blackhawks the edge they needed, but instead, they failed on both opportunities.
They will also win if they keep the Kings at even strength because taking multiple penalties threw the Blackhawks off rhythm. Game 3 was close and Chicago should be able to bounce back in Game 4.
The Blackhawks have faced adversity before, but letting the Kings back into the series could prove to be a costly mistake.
Kings Will Win If...
The Kings will tie the series if they can remain consistent. They played a complete game on Monday, and their forecheck helped sustain pressure. By throwing pucks up the ice, they were able to out-muscle the Blackhawks along the boards. The forecheck ultimately led to multiple scoring chances for the Kings and frustration for the Blackhawks.
Through two periods, the Blackhawks registered only 10 shots, and that is a reason why they could not get into an offensive groove. Bench boss Darryl Sutter has pushed the right buttons, he has great line combinations and the team should win Game 4 if it plays like it did in Game 3.
Los Angeles Kings 2, Chicago Blackhawks 1
The Kings are riding an amazing hot streak at home, and they stepped their game up to cut the series deficit in half. When the Kings play aggressive and physical hockey, they can frustrate the Blackhawks. That is what they did in the last game, and there is no reason for them not to use that plan of attack in Game 4.
With momentum on their side and a blueprint for victory, look for the Kings to tie the series on Thursday.