Kings vs. Blackhawks: Each Team's Gameplan to Win Pivotal Game 4

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Kings vs. Blackhawks: Each Team's Gameplan to Win Pivotal Game 4
Harry How/Getty Images

For the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings, this is each team's most critical game of the season thus far.

That's because heading into Game 4 of the 2013 Western Conference Finals, very little has been decided, and though the Blackhawks hold a 2-1 series lead, the defending champion Kings appear to have every bit as good a chance of claiming a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals.

In the NHL, momentum is everything, and after Darryl Sutter's boys climbed back into the series with a 3-1 Game 3 victory on home ice, the ice has tilted at least slightly, because Chicago knows it can't risk having to win a best-of-three series against Jonathan Quick's battle-tested Kings.

Tonight's clash at the Staples Center could be the turning point in the series for either team, so heading into this all-important Game 4, here's what each team needs to do in order to skate away with a victory in Hollywood.

 

Chicago

For the Blackhawks, one of the keys to Game 4 will be to get more pucks on net, because with a goaltender as talented and even-keeled as Jonathan Quick at the other end of the ice, goals won't come easy.

In addition, with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and company up front, Joel Quenville's team has more than enough firepower to do damage offensively, but that all starts with generating scoring chances, especially down low in the offensive zone. 

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Blackhawks need to use their speed collectively against the relatively slower L.A. defense corps (save for Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov), especially on the power play, where Chicago has just one goal on the series.

With Duncan Keith out of the lineup due to suspension, the 'Hawks will also need a big game out of their remaining defensemen and Corey Crawford, because Los Angeles has yet to break out offensively, and if we learned anything last spring, that won't last forever.

In Game 3, L.A. peppered Crawford with 28 shots, including a number of quality scoring chances, and though Voynov's game-winner was a bit of a fluke, with a team as confident and consistent as the Kings, they'll eventually find the back of the net if they get enough opportunities.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

In addition, Kane, Toews and Dave Bolland have all remained relatively quiet thus far, as the trio has combined for just three goals on the postseason, so now would be a good time to reverse that trend.

If not, Hossa and Sharp will have to pick up the slack, because the chances of Crawford outplaying Quick in a goalie duel aren't in Chicago's favor.

 

Los Angeles

The Blackhawks aren't the only ones playing without a critical part of their team, as Mike Richards remains sidelined, so L.A. will have to rely on its hard-nosed mentality to compensate for the offensive skill differential between the two teams.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

That being said, the strength of this Kings team has always been its balance, as Sutter has an impressive collection of forwards to send out at any given time. Sure, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter and Justin Williams are all star-caliber offensive threats up front, but Dustin Penner, Dwight King, Trevor Lewis and Jarret Stoll have the necessary sandpaper to make life difficult for the talented Blackhawks.

As was the case a year ago, the Kings' rock-solid defense is the team's strength, as Doughty, Voynov, Robyn Regehr, Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene lead one of the league's most well-rounded defense corps.

Simply put, if the Kings limit the Blackhawks to less than 25 shots and no more than seven quality scoring chances, they'll win more often than not.

This isn't the flashiest team offensively, but they don't need to be. All they need is sufficient effort in keeping Chicago's offensive dynamos at bay long enough for Kopitar, Doughty, Carter and Williams to generate a goal or two, and this series will head back to the United Center knotted up at two.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

 

Prediction: Kings 4, Blackhawks 3. Chicago's offense will be better than it was in Game 3, but Quick will outplay Crawford, and Doughty will be the difference for the Kings. It also won't hurt that captain Brown will have his best game of the series as Richards' absence continues. 

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