The Blackhawks maintained their custom of not having a morning skate on a day when there’s an early start (puck drop is scheduled for about 6:20 p.m.). They’re scheduled to have Coach Joel Quenneville talk to the media at 3:30 p.m.
Among the reasons the Kings have been able to go ahead in this series is the fine defensive job they’ve done on Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane, who has no points and is a team-worst -3 defensively through the first three games. They’ve also silenced winger Bryan Bickell, who torched them for three goals and four assists in their five-game series loss to Chicago in last season's West finals.
Of course, the Kings kept Kane off the board in the early stages of last season’s West finals before he broke through to score a goal in game 4 and a hat trick in Chicago’s series-ending, double-overtime victory in Game 5. So they’re remaining wary of Kane and his speed.
“We’ve got to keep playing him the same way. We’ve got to play him hard,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We can’t give him a lot of space. He’ll try to find speed and ice underneath and just kind of weave his way into the zone and create offensive chances that way, and we just need to stay tight with him.
“We’ve been doing a good job but we know he’s going to play his best game tonight so we have to pay special attention to him.”
The slightest slip-up could create an opening that Kane will exploit.
“Kane is a scary guy. We talk about it all the time,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said. “You know what, the more you play him, the more you know it's coming somewhere. We're very familiar with him and we're very respectful of what he brings to the team.
“You could say he's been kept off. We've done a good job against him. He's had some brilliant opportunities. Those guys like that, they only need those one or two. … We got our hands full, Kane and [Patrick] Sharp. We know that.”
Center Anze Kopitar said the Kings didn’t formulate a special plan for stopping Kane and Bickell.
“But you do realize who the threats are on their team and you pay a little bit more attention to it. If you pay attention to one guy too much, they have a good team where the other guys are going to hurt you just as bad,” Kopitar said.
Kopitar also said Kane is faster than he appears.
“For sure he is very quick. He doesn't need too much time and space to make good plays,” Kopitar said. “We've got to be aware every time he is on the ice. You look at their lineup. They're pretty deep. A lot of guys for them have scored in the regular season and the playoffs. You can't focus on one guy too much.”
The standard strategy is to be physical against a skill player, and the Kings are doing that to Kane.
“We want to play him hard. We want to hit him hard,” Doughty said. “I think that’s the way you kind of take him off his game, is play him physical. And we need to continue to be doing that and take his space away.”
Doughty called Monday’s game “a must-win.” He added, “If we lose this game tonight, it puts them right back in the series. It gives them a little momentum. If we win, we’re going back to Chicago up 3-1 and that’s the place we want to be in.”
Game 5 will be played at the United Center on Wednesday.