The Dallas Stars played the way they wanted to - dictating play against both the Colorado Avalanche and the San Jose Sharks this week in a loss and win, respectively. Now it's on to southern California for a quick two games with the Kings and the Ducks.
Los Angeles enters this one 5-3-0, 2nd in penalty kill and 7th in shots against per game, so it will likely be another challenging night where getting pucks to the net is concerned.
Despite getting out-shot pretty emphatically the Stars were able to take five of six points out of Staples Center last year with a 2-0-1 record. A few of the goal scorers in those wins last season: Jaromir Jagr with three, Brenden Morrow and Loui Eriksson.
The team the Kings face tonight is a little different, but one that will deal with the same essential problems of solving Quick, generating chances through a positionally impeccable defense, and dealing with Kopitar, Richards and Stoll down the middle.
"Ride the Bull" this evening after dinner because this one, and we know you missed these, starts at 9:30pm CDT. We'll see you here for the gameday thread to discuss live.
The Stars' lineup is expected to stay the same for this one, so it's good news and bad news there. Dallas has experienced relatively good health (knock on wood) through the first couple of weeks of the season, except maybe the place where it matters the most.
Mike Smith frustrated the Anaheim Ducks all night last night en route to points on the road. The Stars, facing back-to-back against those same Ducks and the much tougher Kings, must be blessed with similar performances to pull points. Whether Dan Ellis is up to it is anyone's guess, but it appears as though Kari Lehtonen's next appearance could be next Thursday at home.
Erik Cole did not practice yesterday but Ruff called it a maintenance day and he should be back in the lineup.
Sergei Gonchar and Alex Goligoski saw their minutes reduced Thursday night as Trevor Daley and Jordie Benn pulled nearly even with the Robidas pair. Lindy Ruff has admitted publicly that Gonchar is not happy with his start to the year, and improvement there is critical to the stabilization of this hockey club moving forward.
"Everyone knows he's struggled a little bit," Ruff said Friday. "I think last night was a step in the right direction. If you lessen the ice time and try to quicken a player's pace sometimes that's the start of turning things around."
Dan Ellis will start in net. Kari Lehtonen is questionable for Sunday evening, and there's been talk of Jack Campbell making his season debut in Anaheim, so stay tuned for news on that throughout the weekend.
The Kings return home full of confidence after a 3-1 road swing multiple time zones away, and now 14 of their next 22 games stretching into mid-December will be at Staples Center. As they had the league's best home record last season, it's a time to feast and the Stars appear to be the first course here tonight.
Los Angeles has required more than 60 minutes to earn four of their five wins, and pushing them to overtime wouldn't be a bad outcome for the Stars. As with the Sharks, giving a team in the other division that will likely have a playoff seed wrapped up by mid-march is nothing to fret about.
Speaking of needing more than 60 minutes, the Kings have scored just one regulation goal in three of their last four games, two of which came from their defense (Slava Voynov is on fire). So you might say they're a little due for some stress release in front of the home crowd in the goal scoring department.
Their lineup, or something close:
Some other guy
The Kings have no injuries heading into this one.
Los Angeles is the only team in the league that's won more games than they've lost despite a negative goal differential.
More from Defending Big D:
- Kari Lehtonen Practices, Unlikely For Weekend Games Against Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks
- Dallas Stars Hand San Jose Sharks First Loss 4-3 in Shootout
- Western Conference Full Of Surprises In Young 2013-2014 NHL Season
- Dallas Stars 101: A Newcomer's Guide To Becoming A Fanatic
- Dallas Stars Show Glimmer of True Potential in Loss to Avalanche