One night after winning in a place where they rarely celebrate victories, the Kings are heading to another place where they rarely have to deal with defeat, as the Kings head to Dallas to take on one of their Pacific Division rivals, the Dallas Stars.
The Kings have had great success against the Stars lately. They are 11-2-1 in their last 14 meetings with the Stars since the start of the 2009-10 season, and over that span have gone 6-1-0 in Dallas. The Kings are already 2-0-0 against the Stars this season as well as having a win in Dallas, back in Slava Voynov’s coming-out party in a 5-3 victory on October 27th.
For the Stars, after once again getting off to a surprising red-hot start to their season, this time it didn’t take them long to come back to reality. The Stars got off to an 11-3-0 start to their season, but then went on an ugly five-game losing streak where they were outscored by a combined 21-4 margin. Before snapping their skid and beating the Oilers 4-1 on Monday, the Stars had scored a one goal in their previous three games. Yes, one goal in all three games combined, not one in each of them. They had also dropped two straight games at home before that victory over Edmonton, however, they’re still 7-3-0 at home on the year and other than those two losses, their only other home loss was against the Kings last month. Although this should be a tough place to play, the Kings have enjoyed their time in Dallas over the last few years, and they’ll look to continue that tonight.
This is a match up of two teams heading in opposite directions. Early in the season, even though the Kings won both head-to-head match ups, the Stars spent most of October atop the Western Conference, while the Kings underperformed and struggled with inconsistency and goal-scoring. Now, however, the Kings have won five of their last seven games and the Stars are just coming out of a five-game losing streak, and tonight they’ll look to avoid falling back into the loss column, and to finally get some success over a Kings team that has had their number for a few years now.
The Stars may not be the best team in the world, but they certainly do have some talent. Leading the way up front are Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn with 19 points, but after a red-hot start, Benn has only one point in his last six games while Eriksson has just one goal in his last nine games. Behind them, they have skilled centre Mike Ribeiro, who has 13 points in 20 games, but has only scored two goals so far this season. Michael Ryder has been a nice addition with seven goals and five assists on the year, while the pesky Steve Ott has three goals and six assists on the year, and in just 14 games. The Stars will be without their captain tonight, Brenden Morrow, due to an “upper-body injury.” Morrow hadn’t gotten off to a great start to his season with the same three goals and six assists that Ott has, but in all 20 games up to this point. However, he’s still a big loss for Dallas. Making up the rest of the Stars forwards will be Krystofer Barch, Jake Dowell, Radek Dvorak, Vernon Fiddler, Eric Nystrom, Toby Petersen, Tomas Vincour and Tom Wandell. One of them will be a healthy scratch. Adam Burish is on the injured reserve
On the back end, the Stars have been led by the rejuvenated Sheldon Souray, who is third on the team in scoring with four goals and nine assists already to go along with an impressive plus-10 rating. The Stars are without Alex Goligoski, who is on the injured reserve, which is a huge loss for Dallas, so making up the rest of the Stars defense will be Trevor Daley, Mark Fistric, Nicklas Grossman, Philip Larsen, Adam Pardy and Stephane Robidas. One will be a healthy scratch.
In goal, the Kings have seen (and beaten) both Kari Lehtonen and Andrew Raycroft this season, and they’re expected to face Lehtonen tonight. Lehtonen is an impressive 12-4-0 on the season, although, like his team, he’s cooled off a bit after his red-hot start (but no one was going to keep that pace up). Lehtonen still has a 2.35 GAA to go along with a .928 Sv%. Meanwhile, Raycroft is 0-4-0 with an .894 Sv% and a 3.54 GAA, which may help to explain why he only has four starts this season. However, he had a strong game against the Kings at Staples Center last month, but he didn’t get any offensive support from his team as the Kings came out on top, 1-0 in regulation.
For the Kings, despite playing on back-to-back nights and having a plane ride since last night’s game, there will be no changes tonight. Up front, it remains Anze Kopitar between Simon Gagne and Justin Williams, Mike Richards between Andrei Loktionov and Dustin Brown, Jarret Stoll between Kyle Clifford and Trent Hunter, and Colin Fraser between Ethan Moreau and Kevin Westgarth. Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis remain the healthy scratches.
On defense, the Kings made some changes to the pairings during the game last night, largely because Terry Murray was not pleased with the pairing of Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty, and Murray will stick with those new-look pairings tonight. The pairings are Rob Scuderi with Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell with Jack Johnson, meaning Johnson goes back to his opposite side on the right, and Slava Voynov with Matt Greene, meaning Voynov has to play his opposite side, but Murray said liked what he saw from Voynov on the left with Greene last night. My guess is that he didn’t want to put Mitchell back with Voynov and Johnson with Greene because of the disaster that Johnson and Greene have been when together in the past, or that he felt Johnson has been playing too well to be with Greene on the bottom paring. Voynov’s been great as well, but Johnson has seniority, if that has anything to do with it. Maybe Murray was just pretty much throwing the pairings into a blender last night and ended up liking what he saw. Davis Drewiske is the healthy scratch on defense tonight, as his pursuit of Peter Harrold’s record for the most games spent in the press box continues. As far as the Johnson and Doughty pairing once again being broken up (although they only had three games together), they just can’t seem to click together at 5-on-5. Murray has tried it several times, but it never seems to work. Maybe one day they’ll be able to play together, but not yet.
The only change for the Kings will be in goal, where Jonathan Quick replaces Jonathan Bernier.
As mentioned earlier, the Kings are playing for the second time in as many nights and had a plane ride in between, so they’ll need to do their best to not be tired out there tonight. Can the Kings continue their dominance over the Stars, or will Dallas finally turn the tables on their division rival?
NOTE: The Kings are expected to once again where their alternate jerseys, the black and purples that were last year’s home jerseys, despite being on the road. The Stars could wear their alternate uniforms, which they can do even when playing the Kings while they’re also wearing their alternates, because the Stars’ alternates are white, but they are expected to just wear their regular road jerseys. On a side note, Drew Doughty escaped suspension for his hit on T.J. Oshie yesterday, but was fined a league-maximum $2,500.