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Stars Make Mid-Week West Coast Swing

The Kings are up first, followed by the Ducks - giving the Stars a chance to extend their Central Division lead.

The Kings defeat the Ducks 4-1 in NHL hockey Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

The Dallas Stars take a quick, two game swing through Southern California this week, eyeing a continuation of their recent success.

The trip starts tonight against the tougher of the two opponents, the Los Angeles Kings.

Other than a paper transaction, where Fredrik Olofsson was assigned to the Texas Stars for a day, the Dallas lineup has remained the same.

The other big news is the re-signing of Joe Pavelski on a team friendly deal ($3.5 million in salary, with $2 million in close to automatic performance bonuses - overall, making it close to this years total payout).

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Mason Marchment (27)
Joel Kiviranta (25) – Ty Dellandrea (10) – Tyler Seguin (91)
Fredrik Olofsson (42) – Luke Glendening (11) - Radek Faksa (12)

Miro Heiskanen (4) – Nils Lundkvist (5)
Ryan Suter (20) – Colin Miller (6)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)

Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)

Oettinger has had the net for a while. Expect Wedgewood to take over for one of the back-to-back games.

Los Angeles Kings Lineup

Quinton Byfield (55) - Anze Kopitar (11) - Adrian Kempe (9)
Alex Iafallo (19) - Phillip Danault (24) - Viktor Arvidsson (33)
Kevin Fiala (22) - Blake Lizotte (46) - Gabriel Vilardi (13)
Carl Grundstrom (91) - Rasmus Kupari (89) - Jaret Anderson-Dolan (28)

Michael Anderson (44) - Drew Doughty (8)
Sean Durzi (50) - Matt Roy (3)
Alexander Edler (2) - Sean Walker (26)

Jonathan Quick (32)
Pheonix Copley (29)

The Kings have two losses in their last eight games, and that includes an overtime win over the Bruins in Boston. They are currently in line for a playoff spot and include a good mix of aging veterans and quality prospects.

If there has been a weak spot for the Kings, its been the play in net. Quick is sitting at a 3.4 goals against average and is well under a .900 save percentage. Their $5 million goalie of the future - Cal Peterson - is starting for the Ontario Reign while carrying more than a $3 million buried cap penalty. Copley has a great won/loss record with numbers that somewhat support the record.

Dallas has had a good run of play against the Kings as of late, but this should be a competitive game between playoff teams to open the year.

Anaheim Ducks Lineup

Adam Henrique (14) - Trevor Zegras (11) - Troy Terry (19)
Frank Vatrano (77) - Ryan Strome (16) - Jakob Silfverberg (33)
Maxime Comtois (44) - Mason McTavish (37) - Brett Leason (20)
Sam Carrick (39) - Jayson Megna (7)

Cam Fowler (4) - Dmitry Kulikov (29)
Simon Benoit (13) - John Klingberg (3)
Urho Vaakanainen (5) - Kevin Shattenkirk (22)
Nathan Beaulieu (28)

John Gibson (36)
Anthony Stolarz (41)

It’s hard to get past just how bad the Ducks have been this year - and unlike most teams that are in full rebuild mode, the team doesn’t have much to speak of playing with the AHL San Diego Gulls.

Watch the top line - Henrique has blended well with Zegras and Terry, both of whom are young and highly skilled. John Klingberg has never found his groove with the Ducks, and if you’re used to seeing him play with the Stars, you’re going to be shocked to see how he is miscast in his role.

Understandably, head coach Dallas Eakins is on an increasingly warm hot seat. If the Stars keep focus and just roll lines, they should be able to outclass this team.

Keys to the Games

Focus. Dallas has an opportunity to pull further ahead of their competitors in the Central Division. Past Stars teams have found ways to squander these types of games. So far, the Pete DeBoer version of the team takes care of business.

Seguin. Continue the experiments to find a role for their highest paid player and his line, whoever those linemates turn out to be.

Next Up. Robertson, Benn and Hintz have each had their month of excellence. Which Star is going to be January’s hero?