Sunday, February 12th, 2012, 5:00 PM CST
American Airlines Center
Opponent Blog: Jewels From The Crown
The Dallas Stars collected three out of a possible four points in an abbreviated two game road trip against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres, but are still in search of consistency as the playoff race intensifies. The Stars technically won back to back games on either side of the All-Star break but otherwise have not put two victories together in over a month (Jan 5th and 7th).
They've alternated wins and losses ever since the break.
The Stars enter the day in 11th place, technically, but have as many as three games in hand on the competition ahead of them and just four points separate them from 7th overall in the Conference. A win today would knock the Kings down to the level of the Stars, Wild, Flames, Coyotes and Avalanche and put two spots up for grab out West, instead of just the 8-spot.
The Kings, meanwhile, are just 4-4-2 in their last ten and enter Dallas on the second half of a back to back that closes out of a six game road trip. They lost a matinee by the score of 2-1 yesterday in overtime to a pesky New York Islander team that kept the score close throughout.
While the Kings defense is superior, they've score just 120 goals this year, which is dead last in the National Hockey League as of this writing late Saturday night. Darryl Sutter was asked about those offensive struggles Saturday afternoon.
"Well, we just finished winning 3-1 in a tough building," said Sutter, of scoring just one goal again. "We gave up two goals and we got a point. Nobody died, and it's a hard-working point for our team."
The Stars are just 3-5-1 when playing a team that played the night before. A tough, tough two weeks awaits them after this. It would be a valuable boost of confidence to draw closer to the Kings tonight. See it happen on Fox Sports Southwest and join us here in our gameday thread...
Much more on each team after the jump...
Injuries are starting to mount a little bit for the Stars once again. Captain Brenden Morrow is out for the foreseeable future with a back/neck injury and Sheldon Souray took a puck off the skate in the Stars' win in Columbus on Thursday. He missed Friday's contest in Buffalo and could miss this one as well. Now it seems that Vernon Fiddler could be out too after getting hit with a Mark Fistric slap shot Friday. That would throw a pretty big wrench in the Stars' line combinations.
The Stars lines in Buffalo were as such...
If Souray is able to come back in then we'd expect that Mark Fistric would sit out with Adam Pardy. Fistric played well in Buffalo, however, and he'll be looking to follow that up with another solid performance at home. If Fiddler is out then Wandell could move up to center that third line while Petersen and Dowell are left to tend things on the fourth combination.
From Stars PR: Dallas and Los Angeles are two of the top-three highest hitting teams in the NHL. Dallas is third with 1,458 hits, while Los Angeles is second with 1,557 hits. Each team has at least four players who have each registered 100-or-more hits.
Kari Lehtonen continues to play effectively for Dallas and despite having handled both games of the road back to back is expected to start this one as well.
During the All-Star break we opined that the Kings could be the only team in the top seven in danger of falling back to this pack of teams ravenously scavenging for points (because 20 of their final 32 are on the road), and so far they haven't disappointed. They're 1-3-1 on this road trip that finishes today in Dallas. They'll have two at Staples Center and then play nine of their next twelve on the road after that.
If the Stars want there to be two spots up for grabs in the West, beating the Kings today would do a world of good toward making that happen.
The Kings enter, as they always do, knowing who they are (to borrow a phrase Glen Gulutzan used last week to describe the Phoenix Coyotes). They defend well, they goaltend well, and they don't score much.
They managed just one goal for the second consecutive game Saturday afternoon in Long Island and have scored just nine goals in six games since the break. Of course, the same thing was said the last time these two teams hooked up at Staples Center, and it ended in a 5-4 shootout (literally and figuratively) win for Dallas.
They've killed 14 straight penalties, not allowing a power play goal since before the All-Star break. They have earned two or fewer power plays for themselves in five straight games and have cashed in only once in that span.
Before putting 35 SOG on Nabokov yesterday they had been limited to 25 or fewer shots in four straight.
Los Angeles has lost seven of nine on the second night of a back to back. Almost as bad as the Stars, right? Well, they're 2-3-4 in that situation, so they can also be said to have picked up points in six of nine chances. Those OTL's are what separate the Kings from those chasing right now. One of them was against the Stars in Dallas.