If you look up the word hot in the sports dictionary, a picture of sport's greatest logo should appear. The Chicago Blackhawks are on an absolute roll this season.
They remain the only team in the NHL without a regulation loss, as they knocked off the San Jose Sharks 4-1 on Friday to improve to 11-0-3.
On Saturday night, the defending champion Los Angeles Kings (5-5-2) will try to become the first team to defeat the Hawks in regulation. But they will have to do it on the road, and the Mad House on Madison will be rocking in support of their streaking team.
This is a marquee matchup despite the Kings relatively slow start. Will the champions respond to battling the early favorites to succeed them atop the league?
Here is how you can watch?
When: Sunday, Feb. 16, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: United Center in Chicago
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Stream
What's Wrong With the Kings?
Jonathan Quick Hasn't Been in 2012's Playoff Form
The Kings weren't lighting the lamp with tremendous regularity during their amazing 16-4 run through the 2012 postseason.
It's true their scoring is down to 2.35 goals per game through the first 12 games of this season from 2.8 in last season's playoffs, but Quick's play has fallen off more drastically.
When he led the team to the Stanley Cup championship during the postseason he allowed only 1.45 goals per game. So far this season, his goals-against-average is 2.70
The Kings will never be a high-scoring bunch, they need Quick to be great to win, and he hasn't been so far this season.
A Lot of Road Games
The Kings have played eight of their first 12 games on the road, and this game against the Hawks will make nine of their first 13 contests played away from home.
They are 3-5 in those eight games.
Perhaps a prolonged stretch of home cooking will get this team on the right track. From Feb. 23 to Mar. 11, the Kings will play eight of nine at the Staples Center.
What's Right With the Hawks?
Offense and Defense
It would probably be easier to name the things the Hawks aren't doing well; that would make for a much shorter list. The team is third in the NHL in scoring at 3.4 goals per game, and second in defense allowing just 1.9 goals per contest.
Have the Hawks been perfect?
No, but they've done an excellent job erasing mistakes. Their 92.2 penalty killing percentage is second in the NHL.
It's early, but it is hard to imagine a team playing much better than the Hawks are right now.
Don't expect the Kings to get any sympathy from the Hawks in regards to their plethora of early road games. The Hawks have run out to this amazing start despite playing 10 of their first 13 games away from home.
Sunday's game will be the third of seven straight games played at the United Center for the Hawks. Translation: Chicago's record could get even more gaudy over the next two weeks.
Players to Watch
The 24-year-old right winger has been amazing early on. His 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists) is tied for second in the NHL.
On Feb. 11, Kane was named the league's First Star for his five-goal stretch through three games (Chicago Tribune). If the Kings want to slow down this high-powered team, it has to start with containing Kane.
His play is the key to winning this game, and righting the ship moving forward. The Kings can only hope Quick gets himself on track soon.
In this lockout abbreviated season, they won't have a ton of time to dig themselves out of a huge hole.
If he struggles early in this one, the Hawks will jump out to a lead, the crowd will get into the game, and the score could get ugly.
Playing at home and in front of a nationally televised audience, the Hawks will be inspired to play well.
They will want to prove their hot start is no fluke, and beating the defending champions—despite their struggles—will serve as a statement-making victory.
The Hawks will grab their 12th win of the season, and the Kings will leave town still searching for answers.
Final Score: Hawks 4, Kings 2
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