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BLACKHAWKS at KINGS
(Chicago leads best-of-7 series, 2-1)
TV: NBCSN, CBC, RDS
Big story: After taking the first two games on back-to-back nights at United Center, the Chicago Blackhawks had a five-game winning streak snapped in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday at Staples Center, as the Los Angeles Kings scratched out their 15th straight win on home ice and eighth straight in the postseason.
Chicago won't have top defenseman Duncan Keith for Game 4 on Thursday (9 p.m.ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). He was suspended for one game by the NHL on Wednesday because of his retaliatory high stick that hit Jeff Carter in the mouth. In order to retake command of the series, the Blackhawks must overcome the loss of Keith. The Kings need that same strong start and intensity level to send the series back to the Windy City all knotted up.
Blackhawks: The bad news is the loss of Keith, which creates a huge hole on the blue line. The good news is the Blackhawks didn't lose a second top four defenseman when Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked a hard shot with the inside of his right knee in Game 3 and could barely get off the ice. Hjalmarsson finished the game and told teammates that it didn't feel as bad after the game as he expected. Also making news for Chicago is star forward Patrick Kane, who's in a scoring slump.
Fans, media and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville alike are now openly seeking more from the star right wing.
"When he's playing his best hockey, he has the puck, he's dangerous with it -- being off the rush in-zone [or] coming off of our end," Quenneville said. "I just think when he has the puck, not too many players in the League can do what he can do."
Kings: The Kings knew they'd have to play well in the neutral zone coming into this series, but for some reason gave the Blackhawks all kinds of room to operate between the blue lines. In Game 3, they cut that space dramatically, similar to the way the Detroit Red Wings took it away against Chicago in a seven-game Western Conference Semifinal. That will likely be the case yet again in Game 4, because if it isn't, the Blackhawks' rush game will probably overwhelm the Kings' defense and goalie Jonathan Quick again.
"We have to frustrate their top players," Kings forward Kyle Clifford said. "[Tuesday] night, we did a good job. We can still do a better job at it. They like that rush-type game. Stay tight in the neutral zone, make sure they don't get too many chances, make sure we're getting pucks deep and make sure we're not having too many turnovers in the neutral zone."
Who's hot: Forward Bryan Bickell scored his second goal of the series and seventh of the postseason in Game 3 for the Blackhawks. ... Right wing Justin Williams scored his second goal of this series to give L.A. a 1-0 lead early in the first period of Game 3. Kings defenseman Slava Voynov assisted on Williams' goal and added the game-winner at 6:37 of the second period. It was Voynov's fourth game-winner of the postseason, which ties the NHL mark for that stat for a defenseman in any playoffs.
Injury report: Kings center Mike Richards (upper body) skated at practice Wednesday with
the health scratches and is day-to-day. Forward Jeff Carter finished Game 3 and is expected to play despite needing 20 stitches and dental work as a result of Keith's high stick.