Dallas Stars (11-9-2, 24 pts) @ Los Angeles Kings (12-7-2, 26 pts)
9:30 PM CT
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, California
The Kings– 4th in the West
Goals – 13th, Goals Against – 6th, Power Play – 17th, Penalty Kill – 10th
After a very sluggish start to the season, LA is suddenly on a tear. They’ve won nine of the last 11 games (their two losses against Chicago and Vancouver) and have found both their offense and defense once again.
In seven of those wins, the Kings allowed only one goal and Jonathan Quick is starting to look a little like the Conn Smythe winner from last season. He’s also historically been excellent against Dallas (13-3-0, 2.15 GAA, .925 SV%) so expect him to be good tonight.
If for some reason he can’t go tonight, Jonathan Bernier has also been quite good this season. He’s responsible for five of those seven one goal against efforts and has a stellar 1.92 GAA coming into tonight. He’s lost only one game this season in seven starts, though he was pulled in the Kings last game after allowing four goals.
Offensively, their top guys have awoken. Anze Kopitar leads the team with 20 points and has registered at least a point in 12 of the last 15 games.
Jeff Carter has suddenly turned into goal scoring machine Jeff Carter and has scored in seven of the last eight games (including a hat trick against Nashville). There’s only one player ahead of him in the league in that category now, Steven Stamkos.
Mike Richards has been a steady source of points and hell, some dude named Jake Muzzin scored twice and had three points in the Kings improbable comeback against the Blues on Tuesday.
Throw in the fact that the Kings are 7-1-1 at home this season and this will be a big test for Dallas tonight.
LA is really healthy as well. Only defensemen Willie Mitchell (knee) and Matt Greene (back) are out.
The biggest key in tonight’s game will be the third period. The Kings are a league best +13 in goal differential in the final frame and have scored 13 goals in the third periods of their last four wins.
Possible line combos:
Carter – Kopitar – Brown
Penner – Richards – Williams
King – Stoll – Lewis
Clifford – Nolan – Fraser
Doughty – Voynov
Martinez – Scuderi
Muzzin – Drewiske
Dallas – 8th in the West
Goals – 17th, Goals Against – 18th, Power Play – 12th, Penalty Kill – 9th
Dallas has been up and down in the past couple of weeks. They’ve been unable to string together consecutive wins, or losses, in the past five games though that may be mostly due to the absence of Kari Lehtonen.
Whatever the case, Dallas is entering tonight’s game well rested and playing well after a great 4-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. Lehtonen looks to have shaken the rust off and will need to be at his best again tonight.
Offensively for Dallas, there are really only a couple of guys that have been getting on the board consistently. Loui Eriksson has goals in three of the last four games and at least a point in six of the last eight. The other guy playing well is, surprisingly, Antoine Roussel.
Roussel is on a three game point streak and has tallied at least one point in six of the last seven games. He’s been a great find for the Stars since being called up and has done a lot more than just being a tough energy guy.
The guy that needs to get going though is Jamie Benn. Benn is pointless in the last three games and has been terrible defensively. He’s -9 in the last four games and the first line has been a big liability on the ice. I don’t know what’s going on with him but he needs to shake out of it.
Lehtonen will start tonight. Ray Whitney and Aaron Rome are still out. Philip Larsen is skating again and could play tonight.
Morrow – Benn – Jagr
Eriksson – Roy – Roussel
Smith – Eakin – Cole
Nystrom – Fiddler – Garbutt
Dillon – Robidas
Larsen – Daley
Goligoski – Oleksiak