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HomeSportsHockeyNHL News: Kings look for momentum in clash with Blackhawks

NHL News: Kings look for momentum in clash with Blackhawks

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The Los Angeles Kings don’t need a victory against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks in their regular-season finale on Thursday night, but they’d certainly prefer one heading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Kings (43-27-11, 97 points) clinched a playoff berth for the third straight season a week ago and have split their two games since.

Los Angeles can still finish third in the Pacific Division if it can beat Chicago and the Vegas Golden Knights lose in any fashion to the visiting Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.

The third-place finisher in the Pacific will face the second-place Edmonton Oilers in the first round. A difficult team to beat, no doubt, but so are the Dallas Stars and Vancouver Canucks, who will play the two wild-card finishers in the Western Conference

“I don’t think it matters who we play,” Kings defenseman Mikey Anderson said. “Anyone that’s making the postseason is a really good team. Whoever it is, we need to be ready to play.”

The Kings weren’t happy with their intensity in a 3-1 loss to the visiting Minnesota Wild on Monday. Their effort wasn’t much better in a 3-1 win against the Ducks last Saturday.

“Sometimes, maybe, it’s a relief you get in (the playoffs), but at the same time you can’t be taking steps back,” Anderson said. “We’ve got to keep building, because you don’t get any time after the year to build your game up, you’re jumping right into it. So, just making sure we’re ready to go. We’ve got one more try at it before you need to be ready.”

Los Angeles interim coach Jim Hiller isn’t satisfied with how the Kings have played the past few games, but he’s not concerned the lack of intensity will leak into the playoffs.

He’d like to see his players lock in on Chicago, just to get their minds off who they’ll be facing in the first round of the playoffs.

“We’re in a playoff race, that’s the way I see it,” Hiller said. “That can be the only way you approach it, because you’ve got to play, you’ve got to want to win every game and that’s what you’re doing and then you’ll let the chips fall where they may. Different things can happen, who knows, but for us, the focus is on us.”

The Kings outscored the Wild 13-3 in their first two meetings this season before losing Monday.

Los Angeles has had the same success against the Blackhawks through two games, outscoring them 11-2 when they met twice over four days in March.

The Blackhawks (23-53-5, 51 points) went 7-7-0 in March, but haven’t been as consistent in April, dropping their past five games in regulation.

Chicago most recently lost 3-1 in Las Vegas on Tuesday, allowing the Golden Knights to overtake the Kings for third place.

One of the bright spots in the loss against Vegas was the play of center Frank Nazar, the No. 13 overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft who was playing in his second NHL game.

“(Nazar) understands his position as a centerman, especially in the defensive zone (when) we’re breaking the puck out,” Chicago defenseman Seth Jones said. “He’s got a lot of speed. He took a couple big hits he didn’t need to take on the rush, just holding it a little bit longer than he should’ve.”

–Field Level Media

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