CHICAGO -- Look for the Chicago Blackhawks to come at the Los Angeles Kings with different line combinations in the hopes of extending their Western Conference finals with a win in Game 5 Wednesday night.
After trying out the Patrick Kane-Jonathan Toews tandem in Game 4 with limited success (they scored a goal in the third period after falling behind 4-0), head coach Joel Quenneville split the pair up in Wednesday’s morning skate.
Quenneville reunited Toews and Bryan Bickell with Marian Hossa, who is tied with Toews for the Blackhawks' postseason scoring lead with 14 points. Hossa has only two goals, though. In an effort to get more balanced scoring, Quenneville moved Andrew Shaw into the middle between Kane and Brandon Saad while Patrick Sharp, who has played mostly with Kane, moved to a third line with Michal Handzus and Kris Versteeg.
"No matter what the lines are, no matter what presents itself, tonight we have to realize we have a really good hockey team in here and a team that’s played in desperate situations before, a team that’s overcome a lot of adversity, whether it’s last year or this year being down 2-0 to a great team in St. Louis, as well," said Kane, who earned his first point of the series, an assist, in the 5-2 loss in Game 4 at Staples Center. "You can look back on those situations and know we prevailed before. Not the position you want to be in ideally, down 3-1, but playing at home tonight and we’ll worry about one game and worry about winning this one."
The one bonus about playing at home for the Blackhawks is that they can stop worrying, at least for a short time, about how bad their power play has been on the road (1-for-24, for those keeping score at home). At home, they are 7-for-22 and that potency has to be on display in Game 5 if the Blackhawks are going to extend the series.
In spite of facing elimination for the first time this spring (the Kings are 6-0 in elimination games thus far), Quenneville figures the pressure is on the Kings.
"I feel it's on L.A.,” the coach said. "Look back against Detroit [a year ago]. We came in here excited about being at home, taking advantage of the home crowd. I don't want to say loose, but let's be excited about the opportunity. Let's go. We've got to win one game here."
As for a report out of Los Angeles that netminder Corey Crawford was involved in a water-squirting incident with a fan who later filed a report with police, Quenneville said he only became aware of the story on the way to the rink Wednesday. He said he doesn’t expect it to be a distraction to Crawford, who normally does not speak to the media on game days. A league source said the NHL is not investigating the incident.
Meanwhile, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty was asked about being tortured by fans in the wake of the Crawford water-squirting reports. He admitted it can sometimes get under your skin even as you know it shouldn’t.
"I hear stuff all the time," Doughty said. "I feel like I get booed in a lot of arenas. It doesn’t bother me. It’s kind of cool in its own way, I guess. Fans like to try and get into it on the bench with me, especially Anaheim, [where] there’s this one guy who always sat in the same spot and after every shift he was continually calling my name, trying to chirp me, chirp me, chirp me. Eventually it boils over and I wanted to say something back. I try and stay away from that and focus on the game.
"I've had times where I thought, that was a good one and I’ve laughed to myself, but not let him know I'm laughing, for sure."
A rundown on the Blackhawks' lineup from Wednesday’s skate:
Bryan Bickell-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
Brandon Saad-Andrew Shaw-Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp-Michal Handzus-Kris Versteeg
As for the Blackhawks’ formidable opponent, it’s no surprise that the Los Angeles Kings look to go with the same lineup that has won three straight games, outscoring the Blackhawks 15-7 during that streak. They will be looking to keep a streak going that has seen them go 5-for-10 on the power play over the past three games.
Anze Kopitar, the top point producer in the postseason with 22 points, didn’t argue the point made by the Blackhawks that the pressure is on.
"Well, we want to finish it off, obviously," Kopitar said. "I don’t think we feel too much pressure. I think we put ourselves obviously in a very good position right now. But we realize it’s going to take our best game to finish this series off."
Projected Kings lineup: