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Blackhawks hope to end slide vs. Kings

By Alan Ferguson

Stats Writer

Los Angeles (30-31-10) at Chicago (37-22-11), 3:00 p.m. EDT

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Blackhawks have earned a point in

consecutive games, but they still haven't figured out how to

break their worst slump of the season or end their struggles at

home.

The Blackhawks will try to take advantage of the Los Angeles

Kings' road woes Sunday at the United Center to avoid a

season-worst fourth straight home defeat and snap a season-high

five-game losing streak.

A month ago, Chicago (37-22-11) was cruising toward its second

postseason berth in 11 seasons and first since 2001-02, but a

current 0-3-2 skid and 10 losses in its last 13 games have put

the team on shakier ground.

After holding a nine-point lead on fourth place in the West, the

Blackhawks have allowed Vancouver to catch up in the race for

home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Their

edge over eighth-place Nashville is down to eight points.

A porous defense has been the biggest culprit, allowing 32 goals

during a 1-5-2 stretch. Nikolai Khabibulin has given up 11 in

three starts since returning from a lower-body injury, including

four in the first two periods Friday night in a 5-4 shootout

loss to Edmonton.

Chicago's Martin Havlat tied the game with 12:37 left in

regulation, but Jonathan Toews missed on a penalty shot 5 1/2

minutes later and failed on his shootout attempt before Patrick

Kane also missed. Khabibulin couldn't stop Edmonton's two

attempts as the Blackhawks opened a five-game homestand by

matching a season high with their third straight loss at the

United Center.

"We're having a hard time keeping the puck out of our net and

getting momentum in games," said coach Joel Quenneville, whose

Blackhawks lost 4-3 in overtime at Columbus two nights earlier.

"We've gotten the effort the last few games. It's a matter of

confidence. A win is what we're looking for."

Losing Patrick Sharp to a knee injury hasn't helped

Quenneville's offense, but the center, who had 23 goals before

his 16-game absence, has resumed practicing. Without Sharp, the

Blackhawks have averaged 2.69 goals over their last 13 contests

after scoring 3.35 per game during their first 57.

Chicago has failed to jump on opponents early as it has scored

the first goal once in the last eight games, but the Blackhawks

scored twice in the first 6:18 against the visiting Kings en

route to a 4-2 win on March 1. Los Angeles had won the previous

two meetings this season.

After going 14-2-4 in its first 20 home games, Chicago is 4-6-3

since Jan. 16. The Blackhawks, though, are 4-1-1 in the last six

meetings with Los Angeles at the United Center and are facing a

Kings team that has languished on the road of late.

Despite splitting the first two contests in a season-high

six-game road trip, Los Angeles (30-31-10) has dropped seven of

its last eight road games.

The Kings' playoff hopes have dimmed during a 1-3-1 overall

stretch, and a 4-1 loss Friday night in Pittsburgh put them

seven points out of eighth place in the West with 11 games left.

A flagging offense can take much of the blame as the Kings have

scored 10 times in their last five and managed only Michal

Handzus' third-period goal Friday.

"When you're down 4-0, you have to keep working at your game,

and that is really important when you're in that situation," Los

Angeles coach Terry Murray said. "We're a young club that has to

figure that out."

Chicago will be without left wing Ben Eager, who was suspended

for three games Saturday after delivering a hit to the head of

the Oilers' Liam Reddox. Eager wasn't penalized during the game

for the hit, but is considered a repeat offender under the terms

of the collective bargaining agreement.

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