The Stars' losing streak hit four Saturday night in Minnesota as the Wild dealt them a humbling 4-1 decision just one night after Lindy Ruff called his team's game "flatter than flat" against Anaheim at home.
"There's energy missing in our game, it's as simple as that," Ruff told media after the game. "We're getting beat to pucks, we're not winning enough small battles. The energy level of our team isn't good enough to win games, it's as simple as that."
They find themselves sliding down the standings, just three points up on the Western Conference's last place Coyotes. Only the Avalanche (3) have fewer wins than Dallas, who must now try to break out their funk against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.
Los Angeles has been lights-out at home but enters the game struggling away from Staples. As Minnesota was without a power play goal, so too are the Kings without a single road win (0-3-2). They've been outscored 17-8 in those five outings.
The puck drops shortly after 7:30pm on Fox Sports Southwest.
Several changes are afoot for the Dallas Stars' line combinations. Or none at all, possibly.
Valeri Nichushkin returned from his conditioning assignment with the Texas Stars and Jyrki Jokipakka was returned there- But that doesn't necessarily means the Russian sophomore or his country-man Sergei Gonchar will get back into the lineup tonight.
Lindy Ruff said both are cleared medically and are eligible to play, but concerns about their conditioning could keep them from making their returns this evening. Thursday night was would seem a better bet, but we'll monitor the situation at morning skate later today.
Meanwhile, in the "professional athletes are not like the rest of us" department, Tyler Seguin had his wisdom teeth removed on Sunday after returning to Dallas, yet is expected to play tonight just 48 hours later.
"He had some wisdom teeth issues and he missed practiced today," Ruff said Monday. "He had that dealt with yesterday. All indications are he'll take the day off today and be able to play tomorrow."
Ales Hemsky left Saturday's game with an upper body injury of some sort but is expected to play.
As for whether or not Jason Spezza would stay with Tyler Seguin, Ruff told media "For me, it depends on where Val's at."
Expect Kari Lehtonen to start in net. Dallas ran these lines in practice yesterday:
Jamie Benn-Jason Spezza-Valeri Nichushkin
Patrick Eaves-Vernon Fiddler-Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel-Cody Eakin-Ryan Garbutt
Erik Cole-Shawn Horcoff-Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski-Trevor Daley
Jordie Benn-Brenden Dillon
Kevin Connauton-Sergei Gonchar
Jyrki Jokipakka-Jamie Oleksiak
From Stars PR:
TREVOR DALEY is expected to play in his 700th career NHL game on Tuesday night, becoming just the fifth defenseman in Dallas Stars history to appear in 700 games with the club (Zubov - 839, Hatcher - 717, Sydor - 714, Robidas - 704). DALEY is currently tied for first among NHL defensemen with four goals and tied for fifth with nine points (4-5=9) this season, while he also leads all League blueliners and shares second among all NHL skaters with four power play goals this season. The Toronto, Ont. native has recorded points in all five of Dallas' home games this season, as his seven points (3-4=7) on home ice are tied for second among NHL defensemen and share 15th among all skaters. DALEY leads the Stars with 55 career games played against the Kings, registering 16 points (5-11=16) points against them.
We're sounding like a broken record here (For you kids who don't know what a record is, click here) but again the Stars face a stingy, stingy team. Dallas is surrendering 3.46 GA/GP this season where the Kings surrender just 2.17.
That being said, they do have a negative shot differential thanks to struggles on the road of late, surrendering an average of 33.5 (27th in the NHL)- So perhaps the Stars can get a few opportunities more than the muck-it-up Ducks and Wild afforded.
If they do, of course, they'll still run into Jonathan Quick, who leads all starting goaltenders recording at least 9 games played with a gaudy .939 save percentage. At 324 he's made the most saves in the league to date this year.
On the offensive side the Kings are currently enjoying the exploits of the NHL's rookie-of-the-month in one Mr. Tanner Pearson, who leads them in goals with seven and is third on the team in scoring with nine points. His shooting percentage of 30.4% is currently second on the NHL's shooting percentage leader list (~minimum number of shots required).
So while that likely won't last, they've got a whole host of candidates ready to break out of uncharachteristic slumps- Anze Kopitar has just three points on the year. Dustin Brown has just one. Justin Williams has one. Slava Voynov, Star-killer extraordinaire, has only two.
Their projected lineup:
From the NHL.com preview, "The Kings have allowed at least 30 shots nine times in their past 12 games and given up six power-play goals on 20 chances in their past five."