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Game Day Preview #81, Chicago Blackhawks @ Los Angeles Kings

Win it for Bob!

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Chicago Blackhawks (50-23-8) @ Los Angeles Kings (38-35-7)

Game Time: 3:00 PM Pacific, Fox Sports West

I had hopes for this game, real hopes. The Blackhawks already clinched both a playoff spot and top seed in the west. They’ve got nothing else to play for. Theoretically, this game could have been the Los Angeles Kings facing off against a good percentage of the Rockford Ice Hogs. And, let me tell you, the Rockford Ice Hogs are not very good this year. This game could have been a real easy one for the Kings.

And then the Blackhawks decided to rest their star players in Anaheim, resulting in a 4-0 loss.

So, bad news: the Blackhawks probably aren’t going to want to rest guys like Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith again, giving them too much of a layoff before the playoffs start. It seems like they’re all in tonight for their season ender.

Sorry, Kings.

Still, even though the Kings may actually be facing the Blackhawks’ A-team, it remains to be seen what their compete level is going to look like tonight. This game is meaningless for them, and even though pretty much everyone will be on the ice, they’re still going to be playing just to avoid injury.

Two players to watch for the Blackhawks tonight are Ryan Hartman and Artemi Panarin. Hartman, in his first year in the NHL, is sitting on 19 goals. If he hits 20, he will be the seventh Blackhawks player to hit that milestone. (The next player down from Hartman? Duncan Keith and three rookies, all with six goals each.) It’s been a weird season for the Blackhawks as all of their rookies settled in and found their roles on the team, but Hartman especially has had a break-out season showing that he brings both grit and goal scoring to the team.

Panarin is closing in achieving a significant amount of money in bonuses for the second year in a row. If you’re a Kings fan looking for ways to put the Blackhawks in even more salary cap trouble, you’re going to want Panarin to get as many points as possible. The most likely scenario for Panarin to hit his bonus is to finish in the top ten in scoring; right now he’s at number nine, with only Evgeni Malkin (sitting out at least tonight’s game) and Vladimir Tarasenko.

So, if you’re looking to be a spoiler for something, anything, hope for that.

For the Kings, the biggest story tonight isn’t on the ice but in the broadcasting booth. Bob Miller is calling tonight’s game, in his last at Staples Center. Miller has been the voice of the Kings for a generation of fans, and it’s sure to be an emotional night for everyone involved.

At the Kings/Flames game, my friend and I bumped into Bob, almost literally, when going back to our seats. He took time to talk to every fan who stopped him, graciously taking photos, listening to people tell him how important his voice has been to them, and generally having feelings all over him. Even to the very end of his career, he’s the ultimate example of class and grace, and I was glad to even be in his orbit for a moment or two.

If I could have any outcome from this game, it would be that the Kings give Bob Miller something fun to talk about in his last home game.

The end of the season is near. Let’s close it out with a couple rivalry games.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Brown - Kopitar - Iginla
Pearson - Carter - Toffoli
Kempe - Dowd - Brodzinski
Clifford - Shore - Lewis

Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
McNabb - Gravel

Quick
(Bishop)

Chicago Blackhawks

Schmaltz - Toews - Panik
Panarin - Kero - Kane
Hartman - Kruger - Hossa
Jurco - Desjardins - Hinostroza

Keith - Hjalmarsson
Oduya - Seabrook
Campbell - van Riemsdyk

Crawford
(Darling)

Opposing Preview: Second City Hockey