Gameday Preview: Dallas Stars @ Los Angeles Kings (9:30pm CST)

Stephen Dunn

The Stars must do tonight what none have yet been able to- Beat rookie netminder Martin Jones, now 8-0 in his first eight NHL starts for the Kings.

Broken bones, ankle sprains, nebulous "lower body" maladies, and now the most feared of injurious foes, the concussion, rears its ugly head as Jim Nill confirms concussion-like symptoms for Sergei Gonchar, who should miss a week or two.

So the Dallas Stars turn to Maxime Fortunus, Texas Stars captain and a good, veteran soldier of the organization for an unexpected shot at NHL action after younger prospects have passed him by over the years.

After dropping a two-goal lead in San Jose and falling in the shootout the Stars face a sterner challenge in the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center tonight on the eve of Christmas Eve.

Did you think the Blackhawks were tough for Dallas? Did you think the San Jose Sharks were going to be the worst holiday challenge they had to face? Did you think the Vancouver Canucks would represent competition a notch above what the Stars had been seeing?

Meet the Los Angeles Kings, and weep, because their domination of puck possession, defense and goaltending is exactly where it was when they made their cup run in 2012, if not better.

Their run over their last 22 games has been nothing short of magical. 16-2-4 in that stretch while scoring 2.68 per game and allowing just 1.32.

1.32. Over 22 games. That's a real thing. 29 goals surrendered in 22 games. That's hard to believe.

In 10 of those 22 they've allowed one or fewer. In 21 of the 22 they've allowed two or fewer. Again, in 21 of the 22 they've allowed two or fewer.

You don't score on this team, period, and if you do they still get points. In 20 of the 22, to be exact. They've suffered actual losses in just 2 of 22 games. It's an incredible challenge for what now must surely be the NHL's most inexperienced blue line in Dallas, who must, the numbers tell us, find a way to keep the Kings to two or fewer goals if the Stars are going to pull anything out of Staples Center tonight.

A large part of their recent success has been the play of 23 year-old rookie netminder Martin Jones, who is found gold for a team that already employs Jonathan Quick and just traded Jonathan Bernier. How nice for them.

He's seen 234 shots and stopped 226 of them for an absurd .966 save percentage, and he became the second goaltender ever to win the first eight games of his career Saturday in a 3-2 shootout win over the Avalanche. He, of course, did not get scored on in the shootout.

He is, rightly so, quick to praise the defensive play of the team consumed by it in front of him.

"Every night our guys come to play," Martin said Saturday, "and the pride they take in their defensive game is pretty impressive. So I can't give them enough credit."

In their last visit to Staples Center on October 19th the Kings dominated puck possession from start to finish, but the Stars entered the third tied at two with a chance for points before it all fell apart (a 5-2 finish).

The Stars hadn't properly worked out their "speed game" then, they didn't have Kari Lehtonen that night, and Valeri Nichushkin had not yet found his game. Breakouts and turnovers were huge problems for the Stars still in that one, though with the defense in tatters who's to say it won't be again tonight?

There was no practice yesterday but there's reason enough to believe Dallas will roll with similar lines to what they used in San Jose:


And those, beyond the first, should really be taken in no particular order.

For some holiday cheer and Staples Center angst-driven vulgarity, stop by the gameday thread to chat live with us tonight as this one unfolds on Fox Sports Southwest PLUS just after 9:30pm CST.

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