HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 5:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Defending Big D
For all of the hand wringing over the Dallas Stars and who is or is not contributing to the team, they’re still holding down the third spot in the Central Division right now.
Okay, okay, yes, the gap between two (Nashville) and three is enormous — 10 points separate the teams — while three through six are separated by a five-point spread (sixth place St. Louis has 45 points, to Dallas’ 50). Even the Blackhawks, in last place in the Central with 41 points, have less separation between them and Dallas as Dallas does with Nashville.
So yes, Dallas is a flawed team that isn’t getting much production outside of the top of its roster. But they’re still not out of the mix entirely, and they have the speed to make life hard on the Kings, even if they may not have the skill outside of their top players.
For a team known frequently for their skill on offense, the Stars have been struggling to score lately; in their last 10 games, they scored three or more goals only three times. Their 121 goals overall this season put them at 29th in the league, just 14 ahead of the Kings. Again, their top players are producing, but that’s about it. The Stars have lost three straight games, one to a real team (Tampa Bay) and two to fake teams (St. Louis and Philadelphia, which are surely made up). And while the loss to Tampa Bay gets put in the moral victory category for the Stars, who came up against a strong performance from Andrei Vasilevskiy, a loss is a loss.
A loss is a loss for the Kings, too, who advanced to the skills competition portion of their game against the Wild, but came up short in the shootout. That they even got that far is a testament to Jonathan Quick, who kept them in the game long enough for them to figure out how to get on the scoreboard.
There was some progress in the Kings’ game against the Wild, particularly in the bodies-to-the-net category. The team has struggled to clear opposing players out from in front of their netminder all season long, and Tuesday’s game was no different. But for the first time in a while, the Kings had the right bodies in place at the front of the net to cash in. There’s going to need to be more of that tonight, as the Stars are a fairly stingy team when it comes to goals against (124 over the season, third-least in the league, tied with Nashville).
The last time these teams met, it was depth scoring that got the job done for the Stars: Blake Comeau, Jason Spezza, John Klingberg, and Tyler Pitlick all scored for Dallas back in October. As usual, the Kings do a solid job of shutting down opposing top talent, but have struggled to contain lower lines. In a season of struggle and turmoil for Dallas, they need players like that to step up, now more than ever. The Kings need to do their jobs and shut them down.