Four weeks ago when the Dallas Stars sat atop the league and the Los Angeles Kings were rocketing toward them at breakneck speed this matchup would have seemed a clash of two Western titans and a possible Conference Final coupling.
The Kings have kept up their end, racing into 2016 with aplomb. The Dallas Stars, however, have lost eight of their last eleven in ugly fashion as they've crashed down to earth, and now a would-be heavy-weight matchup stands more as an impossible spot for a floundering Dallas team with a bad history at Staples.
Los Angeles began their year in pretty good shape, carving a 13-8-0 record in the conference's much weaker half, but since Thankgiving have blazed a trail through competition of all sort, earning a 15-5-3 mark to claim a 10-point lead in the Pacific.
That's 33 of the last 46 points available to them (.717) over the course of two months, and they've done it the way they usually do- Keeping the puck away from their own net. Particularly in the last month. Their fans have enjoyed the opposition beind held to two or fewer in eight of their last ten games.
Compare that to Dallas, who've surrendered four or more six times in their last nine, including six against three times. The latest, the four-spot San Jose dropped on them Saturday night at the tank.
Now a Stars team in desperate need of a turn-around before they sink any closer to the "bubble" group must move forward without one of their top-six on defense as Jordie Benn goes injured reserve. With Jamie Oleksiak on a conditioning stint the club recalled prospect Esa Lindell Monday.
With Patrik Nemeth in the wings and only this game before returning home they could have done with the six bodies they have, which makes you wonder about the timing of the recall and what's more, their apparent preparation of Lindell keeping him out of practice to rest after he played the AHL's cruel "three in three" over the weekend.
"That's a decision we'll make," Ruff said of the possibility he could make his NHL debut. "We kept him off today because if we are going to play him the best thing he can do is rest. The players got their rest yesterday. I think he would have liked to have been out there, but I think the smart thing was to keep him off and get him refreshed."
Interesting. And a tough spot it would be for a rookie to break into the league. A fourth game on a fifth night would probably not be ideal, so we'll see how they lean tonight. Without having even practiced with the team it would seem an odd thing, to say the least.
The Kings have not failed claim to claim points yet this season at Staples when the Central division comes calling- Chicago, St. Louis, Colorado, and Minnesota have all failed to the hold them to zero so far. Nashville and Winnipeg have yet to visit. Over all Los Angeles is a salty 6-2-1 against the best division in hockey.
L.A.'s power play has connected on three of its last six chances at home, and has scored 11 times in their last 11 games.
They've no one of note injured, and their lineup should look something like this-
Talk about a lineup that can bite you at any time. This will be the Stars' first glance at them with Lucic and While Dallas had some success putting together the super-friends recently, the Kings will present a much tougher side through to get than did San Jose.
Jonathan Quick, no doubt, will be in net.
From Stars PR:
ALL THE KING'S MEN
The Dallas Stars conclude a three-game Pacific Division road swing on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings at STAPLES Center. Dallas comes into Tuesday's matchup having won 10 of the last 15 games (10-4-1) against Los Angeles, including posting a 6-1-1 record at STAPLES Center over that span. In the most recent game played in Los Angeles on Nov. 13, 2014, goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped all 27 shots faced to lead the Stars to a 2-0 shutout win. Stars forward Jason Spezza tallied a goal (1-0=1) with forwards Jamie Benn (0-1=1) and Tyler Seguin (0-1=1) each registering an assist in the victory. Stars forward Patrick Sharp recorded two points (1-1=2) against the Kings last season while with the Chicago Blackhawks and comes into Tuesday's contest with points in two of his last three games (1-3=4) and six points (3-3=6) over his last six games against Los Angeles.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Stars captain Jamie Benn extended his point streak (2-2=4) to three games with two assists (0-2=2) on Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks and now ranks second in the NHL with 56 points (26-30=56). Benn ranks third in the League with 26 goals so far this season, while his 30 assists stand at fifth. The native of Victoria, B.C., has points (2-2=4) in back-to-back games and in six of his last seven (3-8=11) against Los Angeles. Benn has registered 26 points (10-16=26) in 29 career games against the Kings, matching his highest point total against a single NHL club (San Jose). Earlier this month, the captain was selected to represent the Dallas Stars at the 2016 NHL All-Star Game in Nashville, Tenn., marking the second All-Star appearance of his career.