I don't know if I'm going to make this a thing going forward or not but it seems to make for a good primer before games.
Last time, the thing everyone was probably looking forward to more than anything was whether or not Brad Richards would play and how much time he would get. Since his status (and future) is questionable to say the least, and because tonight, all eyes will continue to be on Jaimie Benn and Loui Eriksson, I thought I would list five other things to watch for tonight as the Stars take on the Kings in Los Angeles.
1. Mark Fistric's time on the ice. What does this guy have to do to get more than 13-14 minutes a night? With the continued absence of Nicklas Grossman, he's really the only heavy hitter on the back end. Instead, coach Crawford dispenses his available ice time to Trevor Daley, Karlis Skrastins and Jeff Woywitka.
Not to take anything away from those players but is Skrastins' blocked shots stats really preventing the team from being outshot? Are Woywitka and Daley's offensive contributions really offsetting the need to kill the forecheck?
The book on Dallas has to contain at least a couple of lines stating, dump it in the corner. Get behind their defense. You will not be punished.
2. Karlis Skrastins gets out of position - but blocks the shot anyway. For the last two games in a row plus a few more here and there, Skrastins will find himself out of position having taken the wrong route to cut the angle on an oncoming forward and will throw his body to the ice to prevent a shot. So, blocking shot is his specialty but should it be that he's sliding feet first toward the goal line while doing it?
It's worked and he's prevented a couple of cross-ice passes because of it and it's not really a "problem" per se but it will be interesting to see if he's caught below the hashmarks again and forced to slide into second base.
3. Abrasion. The Stars on the whole are very easily pushed off their game with a little bump and rub. On one hand, fans are quick to point out, and rightfully so, that no one comes to the defense of Benn or Langenbrunner or Lehtonen when other teams take liberties (which go largely uncalled) but this team has to take these things on the chin, tough for us to take though it may be.
Why? Because they need to avoid the box because bad things happen to them when they're in the box - Benn's shorties notwithstanding.
I would look for a line combination tonight with Dustin Brown, Kyle Clifford and Alexei Ponikarovsky or some combination thereof at some point in the game, perhaps late.
4. Icing. Something caught my eye in the AP recap of the San Jose game and I've seen it before but never openly admitted. "For us all the icings worked." Said Steve Ott, "I guess we were trying to tire them out to make them keep skating back for the puck."
And why not? If you do it early enough in the shift and if you're confident enough in your ability to win the draw, why not save your legs and try to even the score? The league has already taken away pretty much every advantage icing may have for the icer so unless they start calling "intentional icing," use it to your advantage.
The Stars should still be plenty tuckered tonight. Keep a look out to see how many intentional icings you see tonight.
5. Jack Johnson and Anze Kopitar are Stars killers. Johnson has 5-points and Kopitar has 4 assists in this season's meetings already. Between they and Brown and company, there are a lot of numbers to circle. Expect to see the Stars attempt to play a tight game.
5A. The Jonathans. Who will play tonight for the Kings? Jonathan Quick has been on the slide lately going 3-3-0 with a 3.26 GAA but is 6-1-0 with a 2.12 GAA against the Stars. Jonathan Bernier however has been the hotter of the two going 3-0-2 with a GAA of 1.16 lately.
There you have it; five (and a half) (other) things to watch for tonight to enhance your experience.