The Holiday homestand continues Wednesday night with a date with the Royal Half of Southern California. The Kings come in with a new coach, a restless fanbase, expectations not being met, and an air of desperation.
They should be a passionate opponent.
First for the Hawks: Marcus Kruger (more on him later) and Dan Carcillo will not dress. Carcillo needs a few more practices to get his lungs and legs back before he can get back in the lineup after two weeks out. Or it could be that he's being phased into the 13th forward role that we kind of all had him pegged for when he first signed. We shall see. There have been no call-ups, so John Scott will get a look at forward.
Both Steve Montador and Patrick Kane didn't practice on Tuesday, but both will play. Kane was under the weather and was probably kept at home to not incubate the rest of the team, though he says the case of strep throat has been around since Christmas. So look for that to pillage through the rest of the dressing room. Montador just needed a tune-up and an oil change, or a bit of a rest, and will play as well.
To Los Angeles: Before the season, the Kings were the chic pick to be the coming out party of the league. They were young, talented, and had done the apprenticeship thing the past two years -- bowing out in the first round of the playoffs each time. This was supposed to be when they made the leap to the penthouse and got to eat the appetizers wrapped in bacon with the rest of the league's aristocracy.
Hasn't worked out that way yet. The season didn't kick off well when star d-man Drew Doughty held out as a restricted free agent. He came to camp late, out of shape and sluggish, and the whole team has followed.
What's been the problem? Lack of dented twine. This is the worst scoring team in the league. Some of it is due to an unfathomably bad shooting-percentage that will have to rebound at some point just due to nature. But it's more than that. Old coach Terry Murray wasn't really concerned with offense, preferring the most basic method of attack in that the Kings just got the puck into the zone as quickly as possible, tried to recover it as quickly as possible, and then get it on net as quickly as possible and try to find the rebounds and loose change. Passing wasn't in the vocabulary.
But this team is capable of a much more dynamic attack. They have one of the more buzzing centers in the league that doesn't get enough press in Anze Kopitar. They have a true hard*** in Mike Richars. Dustin Brown is a power forward in too small of a body. There are others.
But the Kings can still play defense. They're in the top ten in goals against. They have a great goalie in Jonathan Quick, and a defense that when it has its head on straight can keep everyone out on every pair. The problem is Doughty, and Jack Johnson aren't always tightly focused. That's why Johnson has lost time to exciting rookie Slava Voynov. Willie Mitchell is finished. This is not the Kings fans beautiful wife.
These games should be slogs, but the Hawks have won eight straight against the Kings. Mostly because the Kings haven't been able to keep Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews off the scoresheet. But with the hiring of Darryl Sutter to replace Murray, the Kings haven't lost in three games. They're playing with more vigor, and the Hawks are something they'd like to measure against. Though they've won eight in a row against them, none of the games have been blowouts. Tonight won't be either.
Sam Fels is the proprietor of The Committed Indian, an unofficial program for the Blackhawks. You may have seen him hocking the magazine outside the United Center at Gate 3. The program is also available for purchase online. Fels is a lifelong 'Hawks fan and he also writes for Second City Hockey .