The Los Angeles Kings are on a roll right now, winning three straight games, and recording points in four straight and have a 4-1-1 record, but after their road win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday the Kings return home to take on a team who’s even hotter right now, the Western Conference-leading 6-1-0 Dallas Stars, who have won five straight games after their 3-1 victory in Anaheim last night.
It’s the Kings’ first match up of the year with the Stars, their Pacific Division rival, and last year the Kings had good success against them going 4-1-1 against Dallas. The Stars are hot right now and playing good hockey, but we’ve seen this before from them. Is it the same old story? Dallas got off to a great start last year after many predicted them to be Western Conference bottom-feeders and were even leading the tough Pacific Division fairly deep into the season. But the Stars eventually came back down to Earth, and their hot start didn’t provide them with enough of a pad once they did, as they just missed the playoffs finishing 9th in the West after losing their final game of the season against the Minnesota Wild, which had they won would have seen them get the 8th seed.
I don’t think Dallas is all that great of a team. I think once again the Stars will cool off after their hot start and they won’t be a playoff team when it’s all said and done. It’s still too early to pay much attention to the standings, and I don’t even think the Stars’ hot start will last nearly as long as it did last season, but right now they’re on a roll so you can’t underestimate them and the Kings could be in for a tough challenge tonight against a Dallas team that’s playing with quite a bit of confidence right now.
Their financial problems caused them to lose top scorer Brad Richards in the summer and weren’t able to go out and replace him and were only able to add depth players such as Michael Ryder, Sheldon Souray, Vernon Fiddler, and Radek Dvorak. If the Stars couldn’t make the playoffs even with Richards and their hot start last year, I’m not sure how they can make it without him, especially in the deep, tough Western Conference.
What do the Stars have? Up front, they have very underrated skilled forwards such as Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn, rugged power forward and captain Brenden Morrow, skilled centre Mike Ribeiro, power forward/agitator Steve Ott, and Michael Ryder who was signed in the summer and helped the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup last season.
On the back end, the Stars signed Sheldon Souray in the summer, once a dominant defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers but now just looking to resurrect his career in Dallas, talented puck mover Alex Goligoski, reliable shutdown defensemen Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas, and their defense corps will likely be rounded out by Nicklas Grossman and Marc Fistric.
In goal, Kari Lehtonen has been fantastic this season, posting a 6-0-0 record with a 1.48 GAA and a .957 Sv%. But with Lehtonen starting for the Stars last night, and getting six of seven starts so far for Dallas on the year, it’s possible that we could see backup Andrew Raycroft in goal for the Stars.
The Kings have their hands full with the red-hot Stars on Saturday night. Will the Kings keep it rolling and take advantage of home-ice and a tired Dallas squad playing on back-to-back nights, or will the Stars keep their improbable start going once again?