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

When last we saw the Los Angeles Kings they had just finished a disastrous extended home stretch that had them reeling. A 2-1 loss in Dallas and soon they were off to their big 10 game road swing that was supposed to drive the last few nails into their coffin. Then something unexpected happened. They went 6-1-3 on that 10 game road trip and saved their season in a big way.

While the Kings were climbing the standings in February the Stars were sliding and as tonight's reunion commences the teams are separated by only a single point, and Los Angeles can pass the Stars by with a regulation win.

L.A. has won seven of their last nine meetings with Dallas including two of three this year, including their only match up at Staples Center. The Stars won only one game in L.A. last season, a 4-1 victory in late March. The Kings are 7-3 in their last 10 home games against Dallas.

It appears as though Jonathan Bernier will get the start in net tonight, deviating from their previously declared plan to start Quick against divisional opponents. Jewels From The Crown believes Terry Murray will give each of his netminders a chance to take the number one job for crunch time and a potential first round series. 

Bernier only has two career starts versus Dallas, going 1-1-0 with a 1.45 GAA and a .947 save percentage. He shutout the Coyotes in his last outing 1-0 at home.

As is becoming usual, Brad Richards does not appear to be any closer to re-joining the Dallas Stars any time soon.

Continued after the jump...

Meanwhile, wanting to see (as Mike Heika says) if Kari Lehtonen can handle a playoff style work load, the big Finn will get the start in net once again tonight. He has at time stole the show during this 4-0-1 stretch while also having issues with his rebound control. In his last meeting with the Kings, Dallas held them to only 24 shots and Kari stopped 23 of them.

The Kings have scored on 5 of their last 25 power play opportunities and killed 54 of their last 60 penalties (90%) so special teams will once again be a key part of this one. The Stars are playing their third road game in four nights and must stay out of the box to limit exposure of tired penalty killing legs out there.

The Stars have been hit or miss when playing their third in four nights this year. Big sloppy losses in Colorado, Phoenix and Vancouver and a 7-3 loss at home to Detroit have all come in that "third game in four nights" category, while big wins in Detroit, St. Louis and Carolina have offset them. Which team will we see tonight?

If Dallas should prove victorious they can create a three point separation between themselves and the 8th place Kings, and take over 5th place from the Flames on tie breakers. If they lose they'll find themselves in 8th place, a single point from 11th and in desperate need of a win against Calgary on Wednesday.

Seemingly all of their upcoming games (Kings, Flames, Wild, Kings) are monumentally huge "4 point games" that give the Stars full control of their destiny. If they don't come out of that stretch in 5th or 6th place then the road gets much tougher with San Jose, Chicago and Philadelphia coming up after that. The time for wins is now, as they well know.

Highlights of last meeting with Kings: