|LAK||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||1|
|CHI||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||4|
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.
|Mar 22 '09||LAK 1 at CHI 4||M. Havlat|
|Mar 01 '09||LAK 2 at CHI 4||D. Byfuglien|
|Jan 29 '09||CHI 2 at LAK 5||P. O'Sullivan|
|Nov 29 '08||CHI 2 at LAK 5||D. Armstrong|