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Game Day Preview: Dallas Stars @ Los Angeles Kings (9:30p CS)

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Dallas Stars (14-8-9, 8th in the West)
@ Los Angeles Kings (20-10-3, 4th in the West)

Saturday, Dec 12, 2009, 9:30 PM CST
Staples Center

Local Radio: KTCK 1310 The Ticket

Opponent's Blog: A Queen Among Kings | Battle of California

Complete Coverage >

Note: Tonight's game is being broadcast on FSN+. Here are the channels this network is carried on in the DFW area.

* Time Warner - Digital Channel 960 (requires digital cable box)
* DirecTV - Channel 677, Channel 677-1 HD
* Dish Network - Channel 448, Channel 9518-HD
* AT&T U-Verse - Channel 755, Channel 1755-HD

At 10:30, the broadcast will be picked up by the normal FSN carrier after the Mavericks post-game show.

The Dallas Stars continue their five-game road trip tonight with the last of a California three-game swing against the Los Angeles Kings. The Stars will once again try and carry over the momentum from a big win, after dropping the San Jose Sharks last night 3-2 in a shootout. The game was impressive (and important) for the Stars in a number of ways and should be the type of performance that hopefully pulls them away from this trend of inconsistency. Of course, we've said that same thing about a dozen times or so this season and the Stars face a difficult opponent tonight to try and put together that elusive winning streak.

Before we get onto to tonight's game, some more thoughts on the Stars' performance against the Sharks...

What impressed me the most about the game was the resolve the Stars showed not just after getting down 2-1, but actually to start the game. You could see the players' determination to bounce back from the debacle in Anaheim, and San Jose proved to be the perfect venue. Despite the one-goal deficit at the end of the first period, I felt that the Stars still had a good showing to start the game. They were aggressive on the forecheck, intent on being physical and pulled the Sharks into the exact type of game the Stars wanted them to. Yet the Sharks are the top team in the West for a reason, and showed that despite the distractions after the whistle they still have the ability to respond offensively.

What was tremendous to see was how the Stars responded coming out of the second period. They fixed the defensive mistakes they had to start the game and continued to put the pressure on the Sharks. While San Jose was able to contain the Stars to the perimeter of the offensive zone for much of the game, it was as if we were watching an old medieval siege; the Stars chipped away and chipped away at the defenses until finally breaking through in the third period.

Steve Ott gets a lot of credit for having a great game last night, and Brendan Morrow was just as effective as he constantly got under the skin of the Sharks in front of the net, yet it was the work by Mike Ribeiro that really stood out as the game progressed. He opened the scoring with a very 'un-Ribeiro' like goal when he tipped in a Daley pass, but provided much of the offensive pressure that kept the Sharks back on their heels for most of the game. What stood out to me was how the Stars ran their equivalent of the half-court offense, keeping the Sharks out of a run-and-gun game. This is the perfect approach for Ribeiro, who loves to slow the game down to his pace. He finished the game with six shots and five (!) hits, and in my mind set the tone for the rest of the team. It's something we haven't seen much of from Ribeiro this season and is something the Stars desperately need from him every game.

Goaltender news and injury notes for both teams after the jump.

The Dallas Stars:

Alex Auld is expected to get the start in net tonight for the Stars, a night after Marty Turco put on a masterful performance against the Sharks. It still feels like the best move however, especially since Auld has been solid in his past two games. One of the goals headed into the season was to get Turco the rest he needs, and the Stars are committed to that plan even if Turco is coming off a great win.

What was interesting about last night's game was the fact that Mike Modano sat on the bench in favor of Steve Ott and Tom Wandell in the third period:

Marc Crawford said Mike Modano was sat down for much of the third period and overtime (he played 1:24) not because he was playing poorly, but because Tom Wandell and Steve Ott were playing so well. Ott played 8:04 in the third period and OT, while Wandell played 6:18. Modano played 9:15 in the first two periods, but Crawford was worried about the match-up against Joe Thornton down the stretch.

It seems like he made a pretty good call on that one, as the Thornton line looked pretty frustrated in the third.

Modano, like the team as a whole, has been up and down this season. At times he shows the same skill and speed he's always had throughout his career and other times he disappears for long stretches during the game. The Stars had issues containing the Sharks' top scorers to start the game and there was a time when Mike Modano was the go-to guy to help shut them down. Yet Tom Wandell (and Steve Ott, who's turned into a faceoff specialist) has emerged as an intriguing matchup on the checking line and has shown he can give fits to opposing team's top lines.

That's not to say the Modano is being completely phased out, but it does seem that the Stars are starting to see the emergence of a young player who could perhaps take over the veteran's role when he does retire. It's also good to know the Stars have a player who can step in when Modano isn't as effective during a game.

There are murmurs that Crawford will be looking to insert some fresh legs tonight, so there's a good chance we see Brian Sutherby and/or Krys Barch tonight against the Kings.

The Los Angeles Kings:

It appears the Kings are for real. They are a team with intense resolve and concentration, who have gone 10-1-3 in one-goal games this season and who have perfected the art of finding any way to win. They aren't dominating by any stretch of the imagination, but they are extremely tough to beat.

The Kings are riding a three game winning streak and have won five of their last six. They are a hungry team that are sniffing the Sharks for first in the division, and will provide a tough for for the Stars tonight.

Los Angeles has won both game against the Stars this season, yet these two teams haven't played since October 22. You'd like to think that the Stars have grown and changed since then, but the Stars are still dealing with the same issues they had to start the season.

The lone exception would be the the Stars' penalty kill, which has improved to 14th in the NHL and 7th on the road. If there is one area of the game the Stars have to opportunity to take advantage of some of the Kings' shortcomings, it's going to come on special teams. L.A. is just 28th in the league in penalty kill percentage and are facing a Stars team that has started to become dangerous with the man advantage.

Despite the fact that the Kings have had a leg up on the Stars the past few seasons, the Stars showed last night they have the personnel and ability to skate with any team in the NHL.

Yet this game is being played at the Staples Center tonight, so all bets are off.

Key Injuries:

Dallas: None.

Los Angeles: LW Ryan Smyth (upper body), RW Brandon Segal (knee) and C Andrei Loktionov (shoulder) are out.