After winning two Stanley Cups, the Los Angeles Kings have not aged well. Their 53 points are good enough for 30th in the NHL, ahead of only the Ottawa Senators. On top of that, there are six players over the age of 30 on the roster with contracts valued at $4 million-plus, none of which expire until 2021. That six becomes a seven once Drew Doughty turns 30 in December, and by that point, his cap hit will have ballooned to $11 million through 2027.
All of this has serious news sources pushing the “Lose for Hughes” plan while fickle Los Angeles sports fans find more interesting things to do than brave the trip downtown to Staples Center. With the Anaheim Ducks joining the Kings in the basement, sports reporting in Los Angeles has devolved into LeBron James sightings and the prospects for the UC Irvine Anteaters in March Madness.
All of that shouldn’t detract from the desperation that the Dallas Stars need to feel when facing Los Angeles on Thursday night. Sandwiched between Vegas and a divisional matchup against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, these are points that the Stars must have.
Drew Doughty can still be elite, as can Anze Kopitar. There are a host of proud Kings, rings on their fingers, who still have some fight in them. Jonathan Quick certainly took exception when there was no challenge of the first Carolina Hurricanes goal on Tuesday night.
Los Angeles flatlined on xG for the last 40 minutes on Tuesday night about as bad as the Stars did against the Vegas Golden Knights. With at least 60 minutes to play tonight, something has to give.
Offensively, Los Angeles has two scoring lines. Each rolls out two seasoned veterans with a bit of youth. Alex Iafallo has been solid on Kopitar’s top line and is likely the next generation player that the Kings will build around.
Defensively, the Kings are pretty big and pretty slow, especially down the left side. Derek Forbort is the Esa Lindell for Doughty, and Dion Phaneuf is Roman Polak for Matt Roy, although Roy was drafted near the end of the seventh round instead of being the third overall pick.
Goaltending is still a strength for the Kings. Jonathan Quick is having an off year, but with the occasional flash of brilliance. Jack Campbell as backup has been one of the surprises of the season, sporting a 2.24 goals allowed and a .927 save percentage.
Meanwhile, for Dallas, the final quarter of the season is taking the same toll on the forward group as the first quarter of the season did to the defense. After taking a bruising (some would say illegal) hit from Ryan Reaves, Andrew Cogliano is set to miss his first game due to injury in his career. Jamie Benn is skating, but is still day-to-day to return.
Defensive structure, spectacular netminding, and a handful of over-achieving AHL call-ups kept the Stars competitive early on. With the team struggling to find the net even in the best of times, the question is whether Dallas can retain a playoff spot with a decimated forward corps.
Lineups are tentative, especially given the day to day status of Jamie Benn and the late west coast start. Preliminary lineup again compiled based on depth charts provided by CapFriendly. An update to the lineup will be provided after morning skate.
Update - Fedun in. Benn confirmed out.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Roope Hintz - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Denis Gurianov - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Joel L’Esperance
Valeri Nichushkin - Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Taylor Fedun - Ben Lovejoy
Los Angeles Kings Lineup
Alex Iafallo - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Ilya Kovalchuk - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Brendan Leipsic - Adrian Kempe - Jonny Brodzinski
Kyle Clifford - Trevor Lewis - Austin Wagner
Derek Forbort - Drew Doughty
Dion Phaneuf - Matt Roy
Sean Walker - Paul LaDue
Keys to the Game
- The Kings are fragile. Lock the game down early, and then build off of that to generate offense. Don’t give Los Angeles hope by giving up easy, early chances.
- Once the game settles, push the pace. Special teams are not a forte for the Kings, so opportunities that aren’t even strength are to the Stars advantage.
- Confidence. Play like a playoff team, not like a team that is afraid to lose.
Did you know?
The Kings have 23 wins this year at the end of February. Last year, the Kings had 23 wins before New Year’s Eve.