Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Kings: Counting down in the Windy City
By Dan Arritt
Kings (6-2-0) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (5-4-1) at United Center, 5:30 p.m. (PT)
Five storylines to track:
1. Decision time – The clock is about to strike midnight for Kings rookies Brayden Schenn and Kyle Clifford. This being the ninth game, the Kings will need to decide before Thursday’s game at Dallas whether to keep one or both 19- year-olds, or send them back to their junior teams. If they remain on the roster, the club will be on the hook for the first year of their NHL contracts, regardless if they stick with the team. Schenn has two assists in six games, Clifford has no assists or shots on goal in four appearances.
2. Power play heating up – In the last two games, the Kings have climbed from 30th in the league in power-play efficiency to a tie for 15th after scoring three extra-man goals and another on a 5-on-3 opportunity. They still have a ways to go to match their 20.8% success rate on the power play last season, which was seventh-best in the league, but they are definitely headed in the right direction.
3. Bernier gets a turn – Jonathan Bernier seems to be adjusting to his first-ever stint as a backup goalkeeper. As the confirmed starter against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, the Kings hope the final period of his last appearance will carry over to the Windy City. He looked rusty and indecisive while giving up three goals in the first 35 minutes against visiting Carolina on Oct. 20 but was sterling down the stretch killing two power plays in the 4-3 victory.
4. The Chicago Shuffle -- Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville went back to the drawing board at practice Tuesday and re-shuffled all four lines and a few positions. Patrick Sharp, a natural center who has a league-leading eight goals, moved to right wing on the first line with center Jonathan Toews and former fourth-liner Jack Skille. Sharp took the spot of Patrick Kane, who took his minus-7 rating down to the third line. For more details on the changes, check out this link to ESPNChicago.
5. A healthy dose of Hossa – Chicago forward Marian Hossa is feeling fit as a fiddle and that’s not a good sign for opponents. The 31-year-old Czech hasn’t scored a point in the last three games but remains on pace to score 50-plus goals this season. Some are saying he looks like the player he was during his career-best 2006-07 season, when he scored a franchise-record 100 points as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers.