Despite having only collected points in a single game over the course of the last 11 days since NHL action restarted, the Stars really hadn't lost that much ground in the playoff race until just recently. They had been getting a little bit of help as the Flames and Red Wings were up and down, but wins by both last night have stretched the deficit to 7 points, with the Stars having a game in hand on both.
We talked about it a little last night on the Defending Big D Live podcast (which you can download here, and you can also find us on iTunes), and the real problem is that the Stars have no games remaining against the teams they're chasing. The Red Wing and Flame series have wrapped up, and the Predators and Avalanche are too far ahead for one game remaining against each to matter. If the Stars want to make the playoffs, the only thing they can do is put their head down and work hard, because they must achieve a level of hockey not seen in Dallas for several seasons to have even an outside chance.
Dallas has lost all four games against the Kings this season by a combined score of 17-8, none worse than the 5-1 walloping the Stars took last Tuesday night at the AAC. The Kings victories have been particularly lopsided in Dallas, winning both by a score of 9-2.
Follow the jump for more on both teams, a starting netminder surprise? And injury updates...
A big issue for the Stars in March has been breakdowns in defensive coverage. Last week against these same Kings they left several L.A. players standing in front of the net, unmolested. We saw it on the first goal Washington scored on Monday, and the Tomas Vanek goal against Buffalo was the same thing. The other teams forwards are being permitted to stand right in front of the Dallas net.
ESPN Dallas spoke with Joe Nieuwendyk about those defensive woes, and he had this to say "Obviously, we have some issues defensively, no question," Nieuwendyk said. "To me, defense is a five-man system. Whether it’s a lack of trust between forwards and defense, everybody has to be on the same page and at times we don’t get on the same page. I would obviously like to see us be a better defensive team and that’s something we’re going to work on." Fixing these breakdowns has to be job #1 (and #2 and #3) if they're going to get any positive results on this home stand.
A bit of good news from morning skate is that it appears Jere Lehtinen and Brian Sutherby will be available tonight, with Fabian Brunnstrom sitting out. Marty Turco will start in goal.
How would you arrange the lines with Lehtinen in? Who would you scratch if Sutherby plays? Segal?
Congratulations are in order to United States silver medalist Jonathan Quick and his family. His wife gave birth to their first child last night, a daughter, at 4:15 in the morning. Having just had one of those myself, I wish them the best of luck. That being said, Quick will obviously not be in the lineup tonight for the Kings.
One good Jonathan deserves another evidently, and Jonathan Bernier will get the start in net, reports LA Kings Insider:
Jonathan Bernier just left the ice, with Erik Ersberg still facing shots. The first goalie off the ice in the morning skate is, almost always, that night’s starting goalie. There will be official confirmation soon…
The Kings are a shoe in to make the playoffs this season, and sit only 2 points back of the 4th seeded Phoenix Coyotes. Playing in front of the young AHL netminder and home ice advantage should produce a highly motivated group tonight for the Stars to try and defend.
Stars: Tom Wandell (knee)
Kings: None that I can find. It seems Justin Williams is ready to return to the Kings top line. Great.