Hockey / Sports

Chicago Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews is checked by Los Angeles Kings' Jake Muzzin in 1st period during Game 1 of the NHL Western Conference Finals at the United Center in Chicago on Sunday, May 18, 2014. (Scott Strazzante/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Parking in front of net pays off for Brandon Saad

CHICAGO -- Brandon Saad received a nice reminder about being in the right place at the right time.

During a Chicago Blackhawks power play in the first period Sunday, the winger stationed himself in front of the net and benefited from a shot by Nick Leddy, which he deflected past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick for a 1-0 lead.

"I need to start doing that more," said Saad, who scored his third goal of the playoffs in the Hawks' 3-1 victory. "I can get goals different types of ways, and I think getting to the net more, especially in the playoffs, is how they're going to come. Doing that consistently would be a huge reason why."

It's not a glamorous role, but with Andrew Shaw sidelined with an apparent right leg injury, Saad is willing to help create traffic.

"It's just hard work," Saad said. "Teams have big defensemen, strong defensemen that do a good job of boxing out. It's just hard work and battling through it. Shaw does a great job with that. You see it every night. With him out especially, someone has to take that role."

What fatigue? The Kings had every reason to feel sluggish.

They had just wrapped up a seven-game series Friday night, spent Saturday practicing and flying to Chicago, then hit the ice Sunday for Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. But they didn't look too rusty.

"The only time I really noticed it, quite honest, was early in the game," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "(There were) two or three times in the first where we got caught at the end of shifts. That's where it showed up. Other than that, I don't think it really hurt us that much."

The Hawks started the game with a 5-0 shot advantage, but the Kings quickly found their legs.

"I thought we had a good first five minutes or so," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They came back on us pretty even most of the way. ... They get energy from everybody."

Back at it: The Kings got a boost on the back end when veteran Willie Mitchell returned to the lineup after missing eight games with a leg injury.

"I was itching for the last series, but it was kind of a quick turnaround after my injury, so I didn't have many practices," the defenseman said. "My teammates gave me ... the opportunity to get in here and be a part of this. I just wish it was a better result."

Mitchell had one shot on goal and two hits in 16 minutes, 49 seconds of ice time and finished a plus-1.

"I felt pretty good, actually," Mitchell said. "They say the first one is the easiest, because you're so full of adrenaline. It's the second and third, coming off a couple weeks, where you've got to play a smarter game. Hopefully, I can continue to build on my game."

Switch: After being a healthy scratch for the final two games of the second-round series against the Wild, defenseman Michal Rozsival was back in the Hawks' lineup while Sheldon Brookbank took a seat.

Numbers game: Marian Hossa had two assists in Game 1 for his fourth multiple-point game of the postseason. The veteran winger leads the Hawks in scoring with two goals and 11 assists in 13 games. Hossa has five assists in the last four games.

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