Struggling Kings renew rivalry with Blackhawks

( - For most of 2014-15 the Los Angeles Kings haven't looked much like a team that has won two of the last three Stanley Cup titles,

The defending champions hope a clash against last spring's Western Conference finals combatant can get them back in the win column, as the Kings welcome the Chicago Blackhawks for Wednesday's battle at Staples Center.

The Kings outlasted Chicago in seven games last season for the Western Conference title before L.A. beat the New York Rangers in five for its second title since 2012. However, the Cup hangover has hit Los Angeles hard this season and the club enters Wednesday's action three points out of a playoff spot in the West.

L.A. entered the All-Star break on a four-game skid and is hoping to pick up its first win tonight since notching a home win over Toronto on Jan. 12.

The Kings' final tilt before the break was last Wednesday's 4-2 loss at San Jose. Logan Couture had two goals and an assist to lead the Sharks.

Dustin Brown scored the only goal of the game for the Kings, who have lost seven of eight. Jonathan Quick gave up three goals on 24 shots.

"We've got to do a better job in certain areas," Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "You can't afford to give up two power-play goals against and really expect to win too many games, especially on the road."

L.A. will take the ice tonight without former All-Star center Mike Richards, who was placed on waivers Monday. Richards, a member of both Kings championship teams, cleared waivers Tuesday and has been assigned to the team's AHL affiliate in Manchester.

Richards, who turns 30 in February, has seen his production decline in recent seasons and has just five goals and 15 points in 47 games for Los Angeles in 2014-15. He was an All-Star in two consecutive seasons from 2009-10 with the Philadelphia Flyers and had a career-high 80 points in the 2008-09 season.

The veteran forward is owed $23 million over the final four years of his contract and counts for $5.75 million against the salary cap. The waiver move lowered Richards' cap hit by $925,000.

Despite winning just once during a seven-game homestand earlier this month, the Kings still own a respectable 15-6-6 mark in L.A. this season. The club will begin a five-game road trip this Saturday in Boston.

The Blackhawks have won four straight in the regular-season series against L.A. and they notched a 4-1 win at the Staples Center on Nov. 29. Chicago has claimed three straight and seven of the past eight meetings in the City of Angels.

Chicago enters tonight tied with St. Louis for second place in the Central Division. The clubs are two points ahead of Winnipeg and five behind first- place Nashville.

The Blackhawks won their final two games before the All-Star break. Chicago posted a 6-1 home win over Arizona on Jan. 20 before claiming a shootout win the following night in Pittsburgh.

Last Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Penguins marked a positive start to a seven- game road trip for the Blackhawks and pushed their away record this season to 14-8-1.

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each scored during the shootout help the Blackhawks down the Pens. Kane and Toews also represented Chicago at All-Star weekend along with defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook and goaltender Corey Crawford.

Marian Hossa tallied a goal and an assist, David Rundblad also scored and Crawford made 33 saves for the win.

"I think we played smart tonight," said Toews. "It's a good road win."

The Blackhawks will continue their trek by staying in California for a pair of games this weekend. Chicago visits Anaheim on Friday before taking on the Sharks this Saturday.

Quick is expected to start tonight for L.A. and is 6-13-1 with a 2.78 goals against average in his career against Chicago. Crawford is 7-3-0 with a 2.56 GAA in 10 lifetime appearances versus the Kings.