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Hawks stifle Kings’ top line

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival (32) Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter get inpushing match during third period Game 1

Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival (32) and Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter get into a pushing match during the third period of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs in Chicago on Sunday, May 18, 2014. The Blackhawks won 3-1. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) ORG XMIT: ILCA138

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Updated: June 23, 2014 1:24PM



The Kings’ top line of Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik entered the Western Conference final with 16 goals and 26 assists in 14 playoff games. Kopitar alone had five goals and 14 assists, with at least a point in all but one game.

Against the Blackhawks on Sunday, they came up empty, combining for only six shots (none for Kopitar). Coach Joel Quenneville had Jonathan Toews’ line on the ice for every one of fellow Selke Trophy finalist Kopitar’s even-strength shifts until the final minute of play.

“Regardless of who [Kopitar] plays with, he’s going to be effective,” Toews said. “The best way to [defend him] is to keep him in his own zone and make him have to worry about playing defense. I’m lucky I’ve got [Marian] Hossa out there, too. If I make a mistake, he’s hauling back to make up for it. . . . We have a tough job to do if we’re going to be seeing a lot of that line.”

Quenneville knows he has to take advantage of the last change at home.

“It’ll be a work in progress, a challenge game in, game out,” he said. “They’ve got three nice players who complement one another. They’re dangerous. Every time they touch the puck, every time they’re on the ice, you’ve got to be aware.”

Crow soars again

Hawks goaltender Corey Crawford has allowed only one goal in each of his last three games. Toews was asked for the umpteenth time this postseason to describe Crawford’s play. He’s running out of adjectives.

“I should prepare more for these press conferences, so I’ve got something original to say,” Toews said. “He keeps getting better and better. As a team, we want to keep raising our level of play as the stage gets bigger and bigger. If there’s anyone that’s doing it, it’s Crow.”

Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, the Conn Smythe winner in 2012, is considered one of the world’s top goalies. But Crawford said he doesn’t feel like he’s going head-to-head with Quick.

“No,” he said. “Unless he skates down and starts dangling around our guys.”

Back-end boost

The Hawks’ first two goals came on shots from the point — Brandon Saad’s deflection of a Nick Leddy shot on the power play and Duncan Keith’s goal, which deflected off a Kings stick. With teams playing so defensively in the playoffs, back-end scoring can make all the difference.

“It helps,” Keith said. “There are five guys on the ice, so there’s no reason why five can’t be in on the play.’’

Roster report

Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell played for the first time since he was injured in Game 6 of the first round. Michal Rozsival was back in the lineup for Sheldon Brookbank after being a healthy scratch two straight games.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkLazerus



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