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Defending Stanley Cup champion Kings pose even greater challenge than Red Wings


Best of seven


4 p.m., Saturday at Hawks, NBCSN


7 p.m., Sunday at Hawks, NBCSN


8 p.m., Tuesday at Kings, NBCSN


8 p.m., June 6 at Kings, NBCSN

GAME 5 if necessary

7 p.m., June 8 at Hawks, NBCSN

GAME 6 if necessary

8 p.m., June 10 at Kings, NBCSN

GAME 7 if necessary

TBD, June 12 at Hawks, NBCSN

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Updated: July 2, 2013 7:21AM

If you thought the Detroit Red Wings were a challenge for the Blackhawks, get ready for the Los Angeles Kings, the defending the Stanley Cup Champions.

They’re big. They can skate. They hit. They are deep at the center position. They are well coached. And they have an elite goaltender.

The Hawks know it.

“They’re tough to play against, that’s for sure,” winger Patrick Kane said after the Hawks’ stirring 2-1 overtime victory against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals on Wednesday. “Goals and chances will be hard to come by.”

The top-seeded Hawks undoubtedly have some momentum after what they accomplished against the Red Wings. But what about the Kings?

The champs rumbled past the rival San Jose Sharks last round, winning their own Game 7 in front of their rowdy crowd. The Kings also won four in a row to rally from a 2-0 hole in their first-round series against the St. Louis Blues.

There are story lines, too. There’s Kings coach Darryl Sutter, whose hiring late last season helped propel the Kings in the postseason. Sutter played for the Hawks in 1980's and coached them from 1992-95.

There’s pesky center Colin Fraser, a member of the Hawks’ Cup-winning team who found a home with the Kings. There is Hawks assistant coach Jamie Kompon, who was with L.A. last year, but wasn't brought back.

The Kings also have forwards Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, who were with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 when the Hawks won and who lead the Kings in playoff points.

The Hawks won the regular-season series 2-1, but the Red Wings' success this past round should be a reminder that doesn’t matter now.

They have to find a way to beat goalie Jonathan Quick (1.50 goals-against average, .948 save percentage), who is having another stellar postseason.

“They’ve got a great goaltender,” Kane said.

But there’s more. The Kings’ list of standouts — Richards, Carter, Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Drew Doughty — is as long as the Hawks’.

“It’s going to be a good challenge,” Kane said.

Thanks to last year’s Cup run as an eighth seed, the Kings have transformed into a cliché for the get-in-and-anything-can-happen-in-the-NHL-playoffs approach. But they were a special case last year — very special. Few, if any No. 8 seeds have that type of roster.

And the Kings, who have won ­every game at home this postseason, look even better.

“L.A., they have got the Cup and they played two tough rounds in a row and they know how to win,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re well ­prepared.”

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