The Chicago Blackhawks seemed to regain their championship form with four straight wins after a slow start to their title defense.
Then came the weekend and two losses to Central Division rivals.
Chicago hopes to get back on track Wednesday night when the surging Los Angeles Kings visit the United Center.
The Blackhawks are coming off back-to-back defeats, falling 4-2 in St. Louis on Friday and blowing a two-goal lead the following night in a 3-2 home loss to Columbus. They were outscored 4-0 in the third period of those games.
It's been an up-and-down first few weeks for Chicago (5-4-1), which had put together a four-game winning streak after losing three of four to start the season.
"We've got to be way better," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We lost two tough games in a row when we should have gotten something out of both nights. We definitely left some meat on the table."
Patrick Sharp scored his team-leading eighth goal Saturday, but the Blackhawks failed to score more than two for a third game in a row. They've also given up a power-play goal in three straight.
"There's always areas to improve," Sharp said. "We can always get better in a lot of different ways. We can be satisfied with the fact that we won a few games, but we've got to be concerned with the couple of games where we threw points away at the end."
Marian Hossa was held without a point for the third straight game Saturday after having at least one in each of the first seven, totaling seven goals and four assists. The overall production from Hossa and Sharp have helped make up for the slow starts of Jonathan Toews (two goals), Patrick Kane (minus-7 rating) and Duncan Keith (three points).
Los Angeles overcame a difficult beginning of its own Monday when Michal Handzus scored in the fifth round of a shootout for a 3-2 victory in Minnesota. The Kings trailed 2-0 eight minutes into the first period, but Anze Kopitar and Jarret Stoll each scored power-play goals to tie the game.
"The start wasn't the best there," said Kopitar, who has eight points in his last seven games. "But it doesn't matter, two points are two points at the end of the day. Too bad it came in a shootout and not in regulation, but whatever it is, we'll take the two points."
It was the fifth win in six games for the Kings (6-2-0), who haven't won a division title since 1990-91 but currently lead the Pacific.
Jonathan Quick made 20 saves Monday and improved to 5-1-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average. Quick has lost all five games he's played in Chicago, posting a 3.34 GAA.
The Blackhawks went 3-0-1 in last season's series with the Kings, who have been outscored 15-6 in losing their last four visits to the United Center.
Los Angeles will be playing its fourth in a five-game road trip which ends Thursday in Dallas. Defenseman Drew Doughty (concussion) is unlikely to return during this trip after missing the last three games, but he is expected to be back in action Saturday.
The Blackhawks will play their NHL-high 11th game of the season.
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