The Chicago Blackhawks opened their season in brilliant style last month by spoiling the Los Angeles Kings' Stanley Cup title celebration. Since then, they've looked like a team that might have their own party at postseason's end.
The Blackhawks will try to add to one of the longest season-opening point streaks in NHL history in Sunday's rematch with the Kings at the United Center.
Having raised a championship banner before the 2010-11 season, Chicago understands the difficulty of a title defense, and the Blackhawks took advantage of an emotional night for Los Angeles while cruising to a 5-2 victory Jan. 19.
Chicago scored three goals in the opening period and Marian Hossa finished with a season-high three points (two goals, one assist). Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist in that victory and has continued to shine during his team's 11-0-3 start.
Kane is among the league leaders with 21 points after posting a career-low 66 in 2011-12. He extended an eight-game point streak in Friday's 4-1 victory over San Jose, the second of a season-high seven consecutive home games for the Blackhawks.
Chicago's 14-game point streak is tied for the third longest to open a season with the 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens. The 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers earned a point in their first 15, and the Anaheim Ducks established the NHL record with a 16-game streak in 2006-07.
All three of those teams went on to win Stanley Cups, with the Canadiens sweeping the Blackhawks to claim their title.
"We're going one game at a time, but we like our start," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We like the way we're playing, the consistency and the balance, but we've got a tough opponent next."
The Kings have gotten off an uneven start but seek a season-high third consecutive win when they visit Chicago. After allowing 15 goals in its first four games this month, Los Angeles (5-5-2) has given up one in each of its last two contests with backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier making his first starts in 2012-13.
Bernier got some help in Friday's 2-1 victory on Columbus as he faced only 13 shots. He's gotten the call lately because playoff MVP Jonathan Quick has started 3-4-2 with a 2.70 goals-against average.
Quick was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season after finishing with a career-best 1.95 GAA.
"I haven't thought about (who will start in Chicago)," coach Darryl Sutter said. "I said we were going to ride a hot goalie, but our schedule is going to demand that both play well for us."
Quick could get the call as he's been strong in his last two games in Chicago. He helped Los Angeles snap a 0-5-1 skid at the United Center with a 2-0 win Dec. 28, 2011, and outdueled Ray Emery in a 3-2 shootout victory March 11.
Quick might play against Emery again as Blackhawks starter Corey Crawford is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Emery has allowed nine goals in a 4-0-0 start this season and given up five over his last three games, including the win over San Jose.
He's 1-0-1 with a 1.42 GAA in two lifetime starts against Los Angeles and Crawford is 5-2-0 with a 2.34 GAA in seven career matchups. Bernier gave up three goals on 28 shots in his only game versus Chicago, a 3-1 loss at the United Center on Oct. 27, 2010.
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews has four goals and three assists in his last five matchups with the Kings.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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