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Recent champs clash as Kings visit Blackhawks

11:44 AM, Dec 15, 2013   |    comments
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(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks ended the Los Angeles Kings' bid for back-to-back Stanley Cup championships last season en route to their second title in four years.

On Sunday night, the Blackhawks will try to snap the Kings' longest winning streak of the season as the two Western Conference powerhouses meet in Chicago.

Los Angeles entered the lockout-shortened season off its first ever Stanley Cup title and went into the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Western Conference. The Kings survived tough matchups with St. Louis and San Jose to face the top-seeded Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals, but ran out of steam as Chicago advanced in five games.

That came after the Blackhawks had beaten the Kings in two of three regular- season meetings and Chicago ended up besting the Boston Bruins in six games in the Finals.

The two clubs once again look like championship contenders in 2013-14. Chicago is tops in the NHL with 51 points, with Los Angeles three points off that pace. The Kings also trail the Anaheim Ducks by a single point for first place in the Pacific Division.

Los Angeles comes in rolling, having won a season-high six straight games. That includes the first three of a four-game road trip and the Kings are coming off a 5-2 victory in Ottawa on Saturday night.

Dwight King scored just 21 seconds into the game and Anze Kopitar lit the lamp twice in the triumph that improved the Kings to 22-7-4, the best 33-game start in club history.

King and Jeff Carter both finished with a goal and two assists and Jarret Stoll added a tally to help the Kings move to 8-0-2 in their past 10 on the road.

"We wanted everyone's first shift to be a really good one ... To get that one early and get three early, that was huge for our team and huge for our confidence," said Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty.

Rookie Martin Jones made his fifth start in a row and remained perfect with 37 saves. In addition to his 5-0-0 mark, Jones has a 0.99 goals against average and .967 save percentage.

Jones and fellow netminder Ben Scrivens have been part of a defense that has not allowed a first-period goal in 18 straight games.

Scrivens could get his first start since Dec. 2 tonight and it would be his first ever versus the Blackhawks. He is 7-2-4 with a 1.56 GAA, .943 save percentage and three shutouts in 15 games (12 starts) this season, helping shoulder the load in the absence of Jonathan Quick due to a strained groin.

The Blackhawks are without their top two goaltenders in Corey Crawford and Nikolai Khabibulin due to lower-body injuries. Rookie Antti Raanta had gone 5-0-1 over his first six career decisions before taking a 7-3 loss last night in Toronto.

Raanta played the first two periods and gave up five goals on 25 shots faced, lifting his GAA to 2.61 and lowering his save percentage to .911. Kent Simpson allowed two goals on seven shots over the final 20 minutes in his NHL debut.

Patrick Kane scored twice and Brandon Saad also lit the lamp for the Blackhawks, who had won their previous three games by a 19-6 margin.

"We were probably looking for an easy game, thinking we were going to score six goals and that's not going to happen in this league," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had a lot of fortunate goals over that stretch and I think we let our guard down tonight and got what we deserved."

Kane continued his red-hot play with four goals and 12 assists over an eight- game point streak. The forward has found the scoresheet in 20 of his last 21 games and is second in the NHL with 44 points.

Kane has five goals and 15 assists in 22 career regular-season games versus the Kings and notched four goals and an assist during the Western Conference finals, including a Game 5 hat trick.

The Sports Network

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