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

Jeff Gross

Come chat live with DBD as the Stars finally take on the Los Angeles Kings, nearly halfway into a shortened schedule.

With just four points separating 8th place in the Western Conference from 14th, the Stars enter play Thursday night after a three-day break needing to add to their win total, but face one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now in the form of the Los Angeles Kings.

Dallas is coming off a 4-1 win against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday afternoon, but sit just 8th in the West in points percentage even after collecting points in four of their last five games.

"Obviously our start wasn't what we wanted," said Gulutzan of Sunday, "but at the end of the day they came out hard and I think part of their game plan was to get on us early. They were physical with us. I think after the Cole goal that we kind of got in our mojo. We got a little better first period, and carried it over to the second and third. We did simple things. We got pucks to the net and we didn't take penalties."

The Kings, meanwhile, enter the third game of their home stand tonight after two wins against Nashville and St. Louis back-to-back Monday and Tuesday. The Los Angeles offense generated 11 total goals in the wins, while net-minders Quick and Bernier each earned victories. The Kings have won 9 of their last 11 games dating back nearly an entire month.

One name of interest to watch is rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin. The 24 year-old was drafted in 2007 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, but went un-signed, and was picked up as a late bloomer free agent later by the Kings, a la Brenden Dillon (sort of). He now plays top pairing minutes and has contributes seven points on the season already, including two goals in the Kings' last game.

The action starts tonight at 9:30pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest.

The Stars:

A three day break for the Stars provided needed practice time, but also an improving injury situation as Philip Larsen appears ready to re-join his teammates on the ice at Staples Center. Larsen appeared to suffer a concussion at home against the Sharks two weeks ago, but it's since been revealed that his was a shoulder injury.

The forward core should remain nearly identical in the mean time.

Eriksson-Benn-Jagr
Roussel-Roy-Cole
Morrow-Eakin-Smith
Nystrom-Fiddler-Garbutt

Robidas-Dillon
Daley-Benn/Larsen
Goligoski-Oleksiak

The Stars will also have Francis Wathier available to play after a veteran call-up to bolster the forward grouping. Jordie Benn or Jamie Oleksiak could be the odd man out on defense if Larsen were to make his return.

Kari Lehtonen should get the start in net. Ray Whitney has been skating with the team, but remains out of full contact practices and is limited to just small segments of workouts.

According to Stars PR: "The Stars come into Thursday's tilt having recorded points in 16 of the last 20 contests at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Since the start of the 2006-07 campaign, Dallas boasts a 10-4-6 road record against the Kings, while their 26 points on the road are the most against any Pacific Division foe during that span."

The Kings:

The Los Angeles Kings got off to a bit of a slow start this season, but the Stars didn't get to see that version of the defending champs. No, the version that Dallas faces tonight is a rolling juggernaut, 9-2-0 in their last 11 games and 7-1-1 at home this year.

They've held opponents at Staples Center to just a single goal five times already this season, and average just 2.00 goals against per game there over all.

They've scored 30 goals in their last 8 games (3.75 per game). They've scored four third-period goals in back to back games. According to lakingsinsider.com, they "have outscored their opponents 18-2 in the third period over the last nine games and 25-12 overall in the third period this season."

They're disciplined. In their last five games they've surrendered 3, 3, 2, 3, and 3 power play opportunities to their opponents. They allowed only 14 shots to St. Louis, and just 19 to Nashville the night before.

They have hot hands in Anze Koptiar (11 points in last seven games) and Jeff Carter (11 goals in their last 11 games).

The Kings simply have it all going on right now, and it's up to the Stars to find a way to slow them down and get back into the playoff picture.

Expected lineup:

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

Muzzin-Doughty
Scuderi-Voynov
Ellerby-Martinez

Quick
Bernier

Bernier started their last game at home against the Blues but was pulled early in the second period. Quick faced just six shots in nearly 40 minutes of relief. He's looking like the same old Quick lately, allowing just nine total goals in his last five appearances, and his teammates put him in position to succeed by allowing the second fewest shots on goal per game in the league at 24.5.

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