Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Kings: Turning a new leaf in the Windy City
By Dan Arritt
Kings (17-14-5, 39 points) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (23-9-4, 50 points) at United Center, 5:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Starting anew – For coach Darryl Sutter, scoring more than two goals Monday night wasn’t as important as getting the two points. Accomplishing both in the 4-3 victory against the visiting Phoenix Coyotes was just a cool breeze to compliment a sunny day. The victory ended a well-documented streak of 14 consecutive games without scoring at least three goals, a franchise record in the futility department. Sutter seems to be turning things around in a hurry. Since he was hired last week, the Kings have earned five of the available six points and finally put to rest one particularly embarrassing streak.
2. No Gagne – The news isn’t getting any better for Kings left wing Simon Gagne. Sources confirmed to ESPN that he indeed suffered a concussion against the Coyotes. He has been placed on injured reserve. Gagne has a well-documented history of head injuries. Coupled with the new NHL guidelines involving evaluation and treatment of concussions, Gagne could be out a while. Gagne, a two-time 40-goal scorer, scored seven goals in the first 17 games this season, but none in the last 17. If the Kings were testing the waters for potential trade partners before, they might be doing some full-scale fishing now.
3. Extra rare – Getting a goal from Rob Scuderi is about as likely as getting a long-winded answer from Sutter during a post-game media scrum. Getting a goal from Scuderi and Willie Mitchell in the same game is like getting a short response from general manager Dean Lombardi. Suffice to say, Monday night was a memorable one when not only Scuderi (one) and Mitchell (two) scored goals, but also Brad Richardson for just the second time this season. Unlike Scuderi and Mitchell, however, Richardson is expected to score a few goals. If he can begin feeling his touch around the net again, he might just end up getting confused for Mike Richards once in a while.
4. Dustin time – After the firing of former coach Terry Murray two weeks ago, right wing Dustin Brown seemed to take the news more personal than his teammates. After all, he's the captain and longest current team member, spending more one-on-one time with Murray than any other player. Maybe it’s no surprise that Brown has woken up and played his best hockey of the season since Murray departed, producing four goals and two game-clinching shootout goals in the last six games. He hasn’t forgotten about his other specialty either, delivering at least five hits the last four games.
5. Major obstacle – The Kings will need to throw all they’ve got at the Blackhawks, the hottest team in the NHL over the last 10 games and owner of the league’s best overall record. Chicago goalie Corey Crawford is also playing with renewed vigor after he was benched for six games following a sub-par performance Dec. 5 against Phoenix. Crawford has allowed just one goal in each of his last two appearances since regaining his starting role. That’s bad news for the Kings. Crawford is 4-0-0 lifetime against L.A., with seven goals against and a .934 save percentage.