The trip to Chicago is a bit of a homecoming for Sutter. As a player, he was drafted by the Blackhawks in 1978 and made his NHL debut with them during the 1979-80 season. Sutter played in Chicago through the 1986-87 season and then retired, but then returned the following year as an assistant coach.
After two seasons as a minor-league head coach, Sutter returned to Chicago in 1990 as associate coach and, two years later, took over as head coach, a job he held for three seasons, through 1995.
SUTTER: “My family pretty much grew up here, so great memories, great town. … I was a Blackhawks fan before I even played for the Blackhawks.’’
Now, of course, the Blackhawks are the enemy, and a significant one at that. A torrid 11-2-1 since Thanksgiving, the Blackhawks have the most points in the NHL and have score the most goals. They’re two years removed from their Stanley Cup championship but appear to be heading in that direction again.
SUTTER: “It’s an awesome array of young players, and at some point that was going to happen, right? They built around a great young captain, and it’s a great hockey club. Plus, you look at the last month, what they’ve been doing, and it’s the best team in the league right now.’’
The Blackhawks have scored at least four goals in five of their last six games. The Kings…well, know how that goes. So, in order to keep the game close tonight, one would assume the Kings’ defense and goaltending will have to be up to the (difficult) task. I talked to Drew Doughty today about the challenges brought by the Blackhawks…
DOUGHTY: “They’re a good team. Those top two lines are probably two of the best lines in the whole league. They’re obviously at the top of the standings for a reason. They have great leadership. All their young guys are real good players and they have the older guys who go out there and play hard every night too, so it’s going to be a tough game for us. Not only do they have all that skill, but they work hard and they’re relentless on pucks. We’ve just got to outwork them and play our system properly, and things will go well for us.’’
Question: So, playing on the road, playing without Gagne, all that, does that lead you to simplify your game a bit?
DOUGHTY: “I think so. Everyone always talks about playing with that road-game mentality, and that’s about getting pucks in, going hard on the forecheck, not making fancy plays. Even though we have that skill, to make plays, on our team, I think our main focus is just to get the puck up to the forwards real quick, get the puck in, get on the forecheck, hold onto pucks and cycle and get pucks to the net. That’s what we’ve got to do against a team like this, because if we’re making pretty plays and making turnovers, they’re going to come back to our zone and get a goal.’’