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Monday, January 3, 2011
Kings: A big audience, but what about crowd?

By Dan Arritt

Chicago Blackhawks (20-17-3) vs. Kings (22-15-1) at Staples Center, 6 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. It’s how you finish: For one of the few times this season, the Kings will play in front a nationally televised audience -- the only reason to start a game in the middle of a rainy, Monday rush hour in L.A. Both teams have lost three in a row and are getting desperate for a win, so viewers should at least witness some playoff-caliber efforts, even if it won’t be in front of a playoff-caliber crowd.

2. Correction time: We actually gave the Kings too much credit last weekend when we said they were 0-2 against the Blackhawks this season. They’re 0-3. Chicago, it seems, keeps catching the Kings at the right time. Twice at the end of five-game road trips, and the other the first game back after a four-game road trip. This will be the third in an eight-game homestand, so no excuses this time.

3. Second-line blues: When left wing Ryan Smyth was moved to the second line after two games, it seemed Kings coach Terry Murray had pulled a playing card out of his sleeve. Smyth quickly combined with Justin Williams and center Jarret Stoll to form the Kings’ top scoring line through the first 20 games. But the trio's production has dropped off significantly, especially Stoll, leaving some to wonder if the early success was less magic and more illusion.

4. Golden Arches-gate:Kings standout defenseman Drew Doughty has taken some cyber-slack for his conditioning this season and it didn’t help when he announced to television audiences Saturday that his new year’s resolution was to eat less fast food, then quickly added with a chuckle, “Not going to happen.” It was all in good fun for Doughty, who is one of the more comical players in the locker room, even during losing streaks. Look for him to let his play speak for his conditioning tonight.

5. And a couple of more things: Just how bad were the Kings on Thursday against the Flyers? The goalkeeper who beat them that day, Michael Leighton, was waived Monday. But they played significantly better in a 1-0 loss to San Jose on Saturday. Chicago's second-leading scorer Jonathan Toews, who injured his shoulder last week against St. Louis, says he'll play tonight, so look for him to be quickly tested by the likes of  Dustin Brown, Kyle Clifford and/or Matt Greene.