Defending champs standing in Hawks' way

The road to the Cup gets more difficult with the defending champion Kings up next in the West finals. Bill Smith/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- As tough as it was for the Chicago Blackhawks to send the Detroit Red Wings home after seven games, they're expecting an even more difficult task in knocking off the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in the next round.

The Blackhawks and Kings open the Western Conference finals in Chicago at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Game 2 will be on Sunday at 7 p.m.

"I think we've progressively had a much tougher series from the first round; we expect it to keep getting tougher," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "L.A., they got the Cup. They played two tough rounds in a row. They know how to win. I think that we got to make sure we're well prepared. We're excited about the opportunity. I'm sure these back-to-back games will be fun to be a part of this weekend."

The Blackhawks' historic 24-game points streak began against the Kings in Los Angeles. The Blackhawks ruined the Kings' Stanley Cup banner-raising ceremony with a 5-2 win in the teams' season opener. The Hawks also defeated the Kings 3-2 in Chicago on Feb. 17 and lost 5-4 in Chicago on March 25.

The Kings have advanced to the conference finals by defeating the St. Louis Blues in six games in the first round and the San Jose Sharks in seven games in the second round.

"They're a great team," Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "They don't give up much. They don't give up a lot of goals. [Kings goaltender Jonathan] Quick is unbelievable. Their defense and their forwards help him out quite a bit. We need to play our game and play with speed and come ready to play Saturday night."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is excited to have more games in front of him.

"We've played a lot of hockey already, but we've been here before," Toews said. "It's too early to go home. We don't want to go home yet. We want to keep playing hockey for another month. We enjoy going on the road, playing Mario Kart, being together. There's nowhere else to be right now. We'll keep that going hopefully a while longer, I guess."