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Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) lands on Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter (20) as Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30), of Russia, deflects a shot during the first period of Game 6 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series in St. Paul, M Photo:

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell (29) lands on Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter (20) as Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30), of Russia, deflects a shot during the first period of Game 6 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series in St. Paul, M

Road losses to their two chief competitors has the Chicago Blackhawks in position to begin the playoffs away from home.

It's a scenario the Los Angeles Kings are trying to avoid as well when they visit the United Center on Monday night for an important matchup between the past two Stanley Cup champions.

Chicago (41-22-6) has fallen from first place to third in the closely contested Central Division by losing five of its last eight games, the last two coming to its main rivals. After being edged 3-2 in a shootout Wednesday at St. Louis, the Blackhawks allowed the first four goals en route to Friday's 5-2 defeat to Dallas that dropped them three points behind the Stars and Blues.

Poor special teams play was the culprit in the latest loss. Chicago went 0 for 5 on the power play and surrendered two goals in six short-handed situations to extend its ongoing penalty-killing issues.

"Our special teams had probably as bad a night as you could have," coach Joel Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks were 1 for 3 on the penalty kill against St. Louis and are a league-worst 61.9 percent since Feb. 9.

"We definitely have to focus on it more. That's what it comes down to," captain Jonathan Toews said. "Obviously, heading into the last number of games and the postseason, it's going to be a huge part of our game going forward."

Chicago hopes a return to the United Center, where it's 24-8-2 this season, can yield a bounce-back. The Blackhawks play four of their next five at home, culminating with a rematch with the Stars on March 22.

Home-ice advantage should help Corey Crawford recover from a dismal showing in Dallas, where he was pulled midway through the second period after permitting four goals on 20 shots. He's 20-8-2 with a 1.74 goals-against average at United Center this season.

Los Angeles (40-22-5) is also locked in a tight race in the Pacific Division, holding a two-point advantage on Anaheim and a three-point edge on San Jose. The Kings were able to gain a little separation on the Ducks with Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss to New Jersey, managing a point despite falling behind 1:12 into the contest.

''I think the energy level wasn't where it needed to be, especially at the start,'' said center Anze Kopitar, who recorded the tying goal late in the second period. ''We just didn't play the way we need to to win a game, especially at this time of the year.''

The Kings registered 23 shots - their lowest total since Dec. 17 - after scoring nine goals in winning their previous two. They did remain stingy on the defensive end, having yielded just 18 goals over a 7-2-1 stretch.

Los Angeles, losers of four of five on the road, begins a challenging back-to-back stretch that concludes Tuesday in Dallas. The Kings were dealt a fourth consecutive regular-season loss in Chicago with a 4-2 defeat on Nov. 22, in which the Blackhawks scored three unanswered third-period goals to support Crawford's 33 saves.

The Kings, 3-10-1 in their last 14 regular-season visits to Chicago, did hand the Blackhawks a 3-2 overtime defeat in Los Angeles on Nov. 28.

NHL points leader Patrick Kane has six over his past three games against Los Angeles and eight goals in his last 11 regular-season matchups.

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