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

Harry How

After failing to pick up a point against last place Colorado Wednesday, the Stars will try their luck on the second night of a back-to-back against a Kings team that's looking every bit like a defending Stanley Cup champion.

The Stars suffered a crippling defeat last night at the hands of the still last place Colorado Avalanche after blowing yet another multi-goal lead and getting no points when leading after two periods in the 4-3 loss.

They've lost five of their last six games. They've lost 10 of their last 16 overall. They've now lost four times when leading after two periods this season.

It's just not good enough. It's not even close right now. They've seen 22 goals in the back of their net in the "lost five of six" stretch - 3.67 per game. Last night special teams did them in as they went scoreless on amply power play opportunities while allowing a short handed goal.

"I think we played well enough to win and then invented a way to lose, Gulutzan said, simply, after the game. "What does that tell you?"

"We've got to be better at what we do. We've got to be more confident. All of a sudden, we can't even make plays towards the end. We can't even make a pass.

The Kings, meanwhile, are the polar opposite. They've taken 12 of their last 16 games, all in regulation, and have won 11 of their last 12 at Staples Center, making their building into an advantage and a tough place to play.

Stars PR says Dallas enters Thursday's contest having posted three-straight victories at Staples Center in Los Angeles dating back to last season. The Stars have tallied points in 17 of the last 21 games against the Kings in Los Angeles, boasting an 11-4-6 record at Staples Center since the start of the 2006-07 season.

9:30 puck drop.

The Stars:

Question marks abound for Dallas entering this one tonight after blowing a multi-goal lead in Colorado.

With Ray Whitney and Stephane Robidas' situations up in the air tonight and the murky goaltending situation the Stars could take a very different look tonight as they try to solve a foe far, far greater than the Colorado Avalanche.

Tomas Vincour is an option to come in for a presumably injured Whitney, though how they'd readjust the lineup is anyone's guess. Philip Larsen was already in line for a start if his illness is gone, so the Stars could be icing a lineup including Oleksiak, Jordie Benn, Larsen and Dillon tonight, with Daley and Goligoski the lone veterans on a blue line in turmoil.

Jack Campbell could make his first start in the NHL, and as of the writing of this recap Wednesday evening it's not clear if he will or not. Post game comments could firm up the details, but I'm betting not until an optional skate this morning in Los Angeles.

From Stars PR: "Dallas boasts a 5-2-1 record against the Pacific Division so far in 2012-13, which is second only to Chicago for the best record against Pacific Division teams this year. JAROMIR JAGR leads the team with six goals and nine points against divisional foes, while ALEX GOLIGOSKI (0G-7A) and LOUI ERIKSSON (2G-5A) share second with seven points each."

The Kings:

No one does the Kings better than lakingsinsider.com, and it's there we'll start this morning with their list of post-game notes after their last win over Phoenix that details the state of the Kings better than anyone else could...

-The Kings have played in 23 consecutive games without heading to overtime.
-The Kings have now won 12 of their last 16 games, out-scoring their opponents 58-37.
-The Kings have now won 14 of their last 19 games, out-scoring opponents 66-42.
-The Kings have now won 11 of their last 12 games at home.
-The Kings 12-2-1 record at home is tied for the best 15-game home start in club history (also 12-2-1 in 2010-11, 1992-93 and 1975-76)
-The Kings have out-scored opponents 52-30 at home this season
-Jonathan Bernier recorded a career high 40 saves tonight. His previous high was 34 saves.

There's so much information here in a short burst that tells us so much.

The Kings are dominant at home. They've been dominant everywhere lately. They don't go to overtime, because they don't need it to get points - That's the mark of a team that will do something in the playoffs, unlike the Coyotes and others. They have a backup netminder that can play - That's critical, as the Stars may or may not find out once again tonight.

Their power play is smoking hot, converting on 8 of its last 22 attempts (36%), and it's there the Stars must be very careful. A feisty, physical game in Colorado and back-to-back travel, not to mention lingering illness in the locker room, will leave them short something tonight. Playing a simple road game and making the high percentage plays can't include taking a bunch of penalties.

Dallas gave them only a single PP opportunity last time. Duplicating that would be an accomplishment worthy of...well, maybe a point or two.

Meanwhile, the rich get richer. Los Angeles has plugged young player after young player into their lineup with a high success rate. Recall Slava Voynov hurting Dallas last year. Witness Jack Muzzin come out of nowhere to contribute for them this season. Now the beat goes on with right wing Tyler Toffoli.

From the LA Times...

Toffoli, who turns 21 next month, scored in just his second NHL game, and reveled in the moment, taking in the applause from the crowd and acknowledgment from his teammates. Assisting on his goal were Jeff Carter and Jarret Stoll.

"It was incredible," Toffoli said of the crowd reaction. "I didn't expect that. I had goosebumps. It was a great feeling. The last game I had a couple of good chances. This one, I really wanted to put it in. I got a good bounce off their D-man and Carts made a nice play to me, and I just shot it."

Line combinations for Los Angeles have run along these lines...

Williams-Kopitar-Brown
Toffoli-Richards-Carter
Lewis-Stoll-King
Penner-Fraser-Clifford

Muzzin-Doughty
Scuderi-Voynov
Martinez-Ellerby

Expect Quick well rested after Bernier's turn against Phoenix and in the Kings' net.

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