A capsule look at the NHL’s Western Conference finals:
CHICAGO vs. LOS ANGELES
SO FAR: The Blackhawks eliminated Minnesota in six games in the second round after advancing against St. Louis in Game 6. The Kings rallied from an 0-3 deficit to San Jose in the first round and won the last two games of the next series to come back and beat Anaheim.
SEASON SERIES: Chicago won 3-0. The Blackhawks faced goaltender Jonathan Quick only once in the regular season, and beat him soundly. Quick allowed a season-high five goals, giving up two to Patrick Kane, in a 5-3 loss three months ago in the last matchup.
STORY LINE: The defending champion Blackhawks, who also hoisted the Stanley Cup four years ago, and the 2012 champion Kings meet in a Western Conference rematch. Chicago eliminated Los Angeles in five games last year and might have an early advantage with four days off before hosting Game 1 on Sunday against a team that has only one day off after a second straight series that went the distance.
CHICAGO’S KEY PLAYER: Marian Hossa. The veteran forward had six points in his first two games against the Wild, helping Chicago take a 2-0 series lead. He finished the series with nine points, giving him 11 this post-season to tie Brent Seabrook for the team lead. When Chicago won Stanley Cups last year and in 2010, Hossa contributed a combined 31 points. He has nine assists this post-season, matching his total from the playoffs last year.
LA’S KEY PLAYER: Marian Gaborik. The Kings acquired the forward from Columbus in March, and the move has paid off in a big way this post-season. Gaborik has an NHL-high nine goals in the playoffs—Kane and teammate Bryan Bickell are tied for third with six goals—and 15 points in 14 games. The defensive-minded Kings hope he can keep producing along with Anze Kopitar, who has a league-high 19 points in the post-season.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks in 6.
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