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Game Day Preview #61, Dallas Stars @ Los Angeles Kings

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NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Dallas Stars (34-22-4) @ Los Angeles Kings (33-22-5)

Game Day Watch: Kings, Stars, and Yet Another Guy Trying Out #10

If it weren’t obvious based on the stat line up there, the Kings and Stars are neck and neck in the standings, and depending how the rest of the Central bubble teams are doing on any given day, have occasionally been competing for the same wild card slot. All of the games down the stretch are important, with nearly all of their upcoming games coming against Western conference teams (nine against Central teams, nine against Pacific teams, three against Eastern conference teams. But games against teams like the Stars, Flames, and Ducks take on extra importance, given that all are in the same points bracket right now.

For the Stars, they’re looking to salvage their road trip after losses to San Jose and Anaheim. Last night, they lost 2-0 to the Ducks, with one of those goals coming shorthanded. In general, they’ve had a rough go of it lately; in addition to their southern California losses, they almost inexplicably were shut out by Vancouver 6-0 last week. It’s been a frustrating time for the Stars, whose big guns have been misfiring as of late. In their last five games, Alex Radulov and Tyler Seguin have only collected one point each. Jamie Benn has four points, all assists, and three of them came in one game against the Penguins. Radulov and Benn haven’t scored since February 3. Since the start of February, no Star has more than eight points (Seguin; 6 goals, 2 assists).

Perhaps worse for them, they’re getting frustrated. Jamie Benn leads his team in penalty minutes since the start of the month. Benn’s skill game has always been peppered with his fair share of grit, but he’s not an asset to his team when he’s in the box.

Between their recent losses, their tenuous grasp on a playoff spot, and a desire to avenge their shutout loss (3-0) to the Kings the last time these teams met (goodbye and good luck, Darcy Kuemper), the Stars are going to hit the ice with an agenda tonight. The Kings would be wise to do whatever they can to dictate the pace of play. Getting the Stars off their game will absolutely work to the Kings’ advantage, particularly if it results in a player like Benn having to cool his heels in the penalty box.

The Kings proved in Winnipeg that they can hang with legitimate playoff contenders. They even proved that they can still come back from adverse situations and hold a lead. It’s been a while since they’ve truly been the best third-period team in the league, thanks to their recent slump in play. Still, in their last ten games, they’ve scored 11 goals in the third period, and have allowed nine. Watching them get and hold a lead against Winnipeg, even despite the late-game push from the home team, was encouraging. Even weathering the onslaught of shots from Buffalo and Chicago, two not great teams looking to scratch out a win, felt like an improvement after the losing streak.

The Kings’ lineup is a bit in flux, thanks to the incoming Tobias Rieder. It’s possible that Rieder could draw in for Kyle Clifford tonight, giving that third line a big upgrade on speed. Jack Campbell looks, at least for now, to be suiting up as Jonathan Quick’s backup, although John Stevens confirmed that at least for the time being, the Kings will carry Quick, Campbell, and Scott Wedgewood on the roster. For now, they’ve got the roster space to allow them the time to get an extended look at Wedgewood. But that spot might need to be freed up sooner rather than later:

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Kempe - Mitchell
Clifford - Thompson - Toffoli
Andreoff - Amadio - Brodzinski

Forbort - Doughty
Phaneuf - Martinez
Muzzin - Folin

Quick
(Campbell)

Dallas Stars

Elie - Seguin - Janmark
Shore - Benn - Radulov
Smith - Faksa - Pitlick
Roussel - Spezza - Ritchie

Lindell - Klingberg
Hamhuis - Pateryn
Johns - Methot

Lehtonen
(Bishop)

Opposing Preview: Defending Big D