Blackhawks know it will be tougher in L.A.
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LOS ANGELES — The Blackhawks have been workmanlike on the road so far in the playoffs, going 2-3 at the Xcel Energy Center and Joe Louis Arena.
But they haven't experienced anything like the Staples Center at playoff time.
The Kings are 7-0 this year in their "barn," as Andrew Shaw likes to say, and have won 14 in a row going back two seasons.
"It's going to be a hostile environment," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They played well here all season long. I think the start is going to be important to the game. Let's be sure we take care of what we have to take care of. We expect a hard game. Physically, they come after you.
"You want to keep control. Whether you're at the United Center or here, it shouldn't change too much how we have to play. Whether you're screaming for the other team or for us, you're on the ice playing the game, utilize our strengths, play to them, and let's go."
The Hawks have limited the Kings to 3 goals in the first two games, which is about the norm for a team that has trouble scoring goals.
"We've had trouble scoring, not just playoffs," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "We've had trouble scoring, going back six games in the season, we had trouble scoring. Even though we finished fifth in the conference. We saw it last year in the playoffs, too.
"But you know what? We're a good hockey club. We're not surprising anybody. There's no upsets now. We're the team that's trying to surprise the team that finished first overall."
The Kings are getting nothing from Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. They don't have a point in the first two games and have combined for 4 shots on goal.
"They've struggled offensively, for sure," Sutter said. "That's not me jumping out making a statement. That is a fact. That's a statistical fact."
Brown hopes going back to the Staples Center can light a fire under the entire team.
"We played better hockey at home," Brown said. "I think part of it is we get on the forecheck better. Teams feed off their energy at home. Playing in front of our fans is great."
This will be the third game in four nights for both teams, something the Hawks might be able to handle better than the Kings because of their depth.
"I think it's fair to say we're probably not as fresh as we were last year," Brown said. "We had four, five days off between every series. At the same time, this time of year, when you're going through it, you're not thinking, 'Oh, I'm tired.' You're reloading, getting ready to go again.
"It's more of a mental, getting your head wrapped around it, than it is physically, I think."
Added Sutter: "It's taxing on the guys. For sure it is. We chose to come home last night. By the time you shut her down, you shut her down at 2:30 in the morning. Today you're just trying to get close to full again. It's hard."
The Hawks have owned the neutral zone in this series, but that won't be as easy to do on the road.
"We've had a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone," Brown said. "Chicago is a very good checking team. They're not an overly physical team, though. Their transition game is probably one of the better transition games in the league.
"Making them go 200 feet for all their chances will go a long way."
The Hawks will continue to roll four lines and try for the best. Guys like Shaw, Bryan Bickell and Brandon Saad have made a huge difference in the series so far.
Quenneville thinks Saad is coming off his best game of the playoffs in Game 2.
"I thought he had a heck of a game," Quenneville said. "He was dangerous, a threat off the rush, had a lot of puck time. He made some nice plays, had some nice moves."
Rolling four lines is a key, Saad said.
"It's huge, especially on back-to-back nights, being able to roll four lines and keep it up," Saad said. "It helped out the team a lot to stay fresh. You see other teams and they play their top lines big minutes. That makes it tough to play back to back.
"It's always nice having your star guys produce, but as I said before, we've had depth. On any given night any guys can do it and that takes a lot of pressure off those guys."
•Follow Tim's hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.
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