Thursday, January 12th, 2011, 9:30 PM CST
Opponent Blog: Jewels From The Crown
The Stars start the second half of their season tonight trying to fight their way back into playoff contention while getting rid of the bad taste in their mouths left by an unfortunate loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.
"Pretty much the whole game we played the way we wanted to, up until we tied it there and then we turned a few pucks over and we didn't get back quick enough," said Alex Goligoski. "It was a disappointing way to end the game. We scored enough to get back into the game and we just kind of handed it right back to them."
Mike Ribeiro will miss his second consecutive game with a tear in his right MCL. The center wanted to join the team in Los Angeles and play but the Stars are being cautious. The resultant roster chaos means that Tom Wandell will once again center Brenden Morrow and Loui Eriksson, but this time they'll likely carry a full compliment (12) forwards.
"We'll go back to six D, most likely. We aren't going to decide anything until the morning,'' Gulutzan said on Wednesday. "We've had guys who have had the flu, but if we're all healthy we'll probably go with six D.''
This means Toby Petersen will come back into the lineup and that Jamie Benn will not be double shifted (as much) on the fourth line with Adam Burish and Jake Dowell.
The Kings come in as possibly the best defensive club in the league, but have had trouble scoring. They broke a 170 minute (regulation) scoreless drought on Monday against the Captials rather emphatically with a five goal effort.
This was, we thought, going to be the Stars' last trip to Staples Center as a member of the Pacific Division, but the NHLPA's decision to veto realignment means that is, sadly, more than likely not the case. Dallas has had some rough trips to Kobe's house, as we've detailed in the past here and here.
Much more on each team after the jump...
Jordie Benn was sent back to the Texas Stars on Wednesday, leaving the seven healthy defensemen and Philip Larsen still not skating due to concussion symptoms. Gulutzan has been fond of skating seven defensemen lately and double shifting Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn with the fourth line to make up for it, but that might have caught up to them in Anaheim.
Eventually the team will have to get into a regular rhythm of a more traditional six-defensemen setup, and if they do that then the "Pardy vs Fistric vs Larsen" argument crops up again, though Larsen is hurt now. Many feel that Adam Pardy should be the one to sit. Gulutzan is contemplating how to shape his defensive group.
"It begs the question of do we put Hammer back with Robi, and move things around, which may be the way things go,'' Gulutzan said. "We'll talk with Paul and make sure he's comfortable. It's something we brushed on this morning.''
That makes the most sense (to me). It allows them to play Robidas/Souray heavy minutes like they were through December, Grossman and Daley to back them up as a solid second pairing, and Goligoski to skate with either Fistric or Pardy. Our scoring chance numbers showed earlier in the year that Goligoski had an immense positive effect on Fistric and Pardy. If they can get back to that it should help create balance throughout a game in scoring chance differential.
Kari Lehtonen is expected to start in net, still looking to regain his pre-injury form.
From Stars PR: "With the loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night, the Stars concluded the first half of the regular season. They have five fewer points in the standings at the same point last season (from 52 to 47) and have only gone to overtime five times (as opposed to the 12 times last season). Dallas' biggest area of improvement came on penalty kill where they went from 23rd to 18th."
The Kings have won 8 of their last 13 and are steadily rising up the Western Conference and Pacific Division charts. They do it, quite simply, with their defensive and goaltending. They just don't get scored on.
It's hard to believe they've won 8 of 13 when you consider they've scored just 26 goals in that time (an even 2.00 per game) but when you look at their goals against it becomes clear why.
They've allowed just 23 goals in their last 13 games. That's 1.76 per game. What's more is that they allowed eight of them in a single outing (against Detroit). Take the remaining dozen games and it's 15 goals in 12. That's virtually 1.25 per game over the span of an entire month now. That is incredible.
So the way forward for the Stars is clear, and Kari Lehtonen's task is a gargantuan one. Keep the Kings off the scoresheet and you might have a chance. Winnipeg and Columbus did it recently. Each scored just once but got the win. That's a tough recipe for success but it looks to be the path a group must take against Jon Quick.
If you do get one, it probably won't be on the power play. The Kings have killed 36 straight over the course of 11 games. If you want to expand beyond that you can go back 23 games. In that span the Kings have killed... are you ready? 82 of 85 penalties. 95.5%
Again, they just don't get scored on.
Check out LA Kings Insider.com for the very best Kings coverage on the web, including this interesting note about the goals at Staples Center, now changed to include thinner netting aimed at helping video review judges in Toronto.