Chicago Blackhawks (12-11-2) vs. Kings (13-8-0) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. First-line shakeup – As was reported here Friday afternoon, Kings captain Dustin Brown is moving from right wing to left wing on the front line, and Wayne Simmonds will jump from the third line to Brown’s previous spot at right wing. Kings coach Terry Murray said the move is meant as a temporary patch until left winger Alexei Ponikarovsky returns from a broken finger next month. Unless, of course, they start scoring in bunches, then he’ll have another tough decision to make.
2. Home cookin' – The Kings were on the road for just a week, but it must have seemed like two months for their jittery fans who have watched them lose five of the last six games. It wasn’t long ago the Kings were setting a club record for the longest home-winning streak to start the season, and their 8-1-0 record is still one of the top home marks in the league. Chicago, meanwhile, will be playing in the final game of a six-game road trip that began Nov. 17 in Edmonton.
3. Adaptable D-man – Drew Doughty is on his third defense partner in the last three weeks. He was initially paired with Willie Mitchell, who was then sidelined because of a broken wrist Nov. 6. Murray then tried him with another stay-at-home defenseman, Rob Scuderi, but a shakeup on the blueline now has him paired with rookie Alec Martinez, better known for his offensive knack. Doughty said Friday that his strengths as a two-way player allows the Kings to use him with different personnel. "That’s why they put me with Martinez, because he can do his things offensively and I’ll be back there to cover for him," he said.
4. More than Sharp – Chicago forward Patrick Sharp is fourth in the NHL with 14 goals. His latest came Friday afternoon in a 4-1 victory against the Ducks in Anaheim. He has been hot lately and plays particularly well against the Kings. He has four goals in the five games played so far on the trip, and owns 14 goals in 17 career games against the Kings, the second-most against any opponent. Sharp scored in a 3-1 victory against the visiting Kings on Oct. 27.
5. Turco or Crawford? – Marty Turco began the season as the clear-cut No. 1 goalie in Chicago, but then he started letting pucks get by him at a career-worst rate. The defending Stanley Cup champions began giving Corey Crawford a look in the net and he has seized the opportunity, winning three straight starts, including the latest in Anaheim. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville indicated after the Ducks game he might stick with Crawford against the Kings, but Turco was also pretty good against Los Angeles last month, stopping 33 shots.