After four days of rest and respite, we’re finally getting a taste of Dallas Stars hockey again. The Stars are off to California, where they’ll square off against each of the state’s three NHL teams, starting with the Los Angeles Kings tonight.
Despite a rough start to the season, the Stars have emerged as one of the Western Conference’s top teams, currently sitting at third in the Central Division and fourth in the conference. On the other side of the spectrum, the Kings have spent the majority of the 2019-20 season in the basement — they’re currently last in the West and the fourth last in the NHL.
Surprisingly, the two teams have more in common than you might think. Each team has only 13 skaters with double digit points, and only five with 20 or more. Both could use more firepower from their top offensive players, and the Stars have only managed to score three more goals in two fewer games.
The difference between the two teams is defense, or perhaps more accurately goaltending. Dallas has one of the best — if not the best — goaltending tandems in the league in Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin, collectively letting in a league-low 104 goals against. In contrast, the Kings’ duo of Jonathan Quick and Jack Campbell have been less than stellar — each has roughly a .894 save percentage, and the team has been scored against 140 times.
We could debate whether or not the old adage “defense wins championships” is inherently true or not, but it’s obviously a necessity. The stark contrast between Dallas and Los Angeles in the standings makes that clear.
Here were the Stars’ lines at morning skate today:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Denis Gurianov - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Joel Kiviranta
Esa Lindell - Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen
Andrej Sekera - Taylor Fedun
Polak missed practice yesterday due to illness, but is expected to be in the lineup. If that changes, expect Joel Hanley to enter the lineup. The defenseman was recalled from Texas yesterday after John Klingberg was placed on IR.
Anton Khudobin was the first off the ice at morning skate, which usually indicates the starting goaltender. Ben Bishop is then expected in net tomorrow night when the team takes on the Anaheim Ducks.
Here is the King’s lineup from last Monday’s loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets:
Alex Iafallo - Anze Kopitar - Tyler Toffoli
Nikolai Prokhorkin - Jeff Carter - Dustin Brown
Adrian Kempe - Balke Lizotte - Austin Wagner
Kyle Clifford - Michael Amadio - Trevor Lewis
Sean Walker - Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez - Ben Hutton
Derek Forbort - Matt Roy
Jonathan Quick has been the starting goaltender for Los Angeles, but don’t be surprised if Jack Campbell gets the nod instead against his old team.
Player to Watch
Keep an eye on Jamie Benn tonight. He’s currently on pace for the lowest point total of his career, but he’s traditionally been a King-killer. In 39 games, he has an impressive 15 goals and 17 assists for a total of 32 points. Benn has scored more goals against only three other NHL teams.