Stars vs. Kings Preview
LOS ANGELES, CA - The Los Angeles Kings played at a high level last month when Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty was sidelined with a concussion. Beginning Thursday, the Pacific Division leaders get a chance to see how they'll fare without two key newcomers.
Looking to extend their best start at home in 30 years, Los Angeles faces a Dallas Stars club trying to rebound from its worst performance of the season.
After Doughty was injured in a 4-3 win over Carolina on Oct. 20, the Kings (10-3-0) continued their outstanding start by going 4-2-0 without him. The second overall pick in 2008 returned two games ago, but Los Angeles will be without defenseman Willie Mitchell (broken wrist) and forward Alexei Ponikarovsky (broken finger) for at least a month after both were hurt in Saturday's 4-1 victory over Nashville.
Oddsmakers from online sports book BroburySports.com have made the Kings –170 money line favorites for Thursday's game against the Stars. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 54% of more than 102 bets for this game have been placed on the Kings.
Mitchell, who signed a two-year deal in August, has a plus-7 rating playing next to Doughty. Ponikarovsky, who split time with Toronto and Pittsburgh last season, has two goals and two assists on the third line with Michal Handzus and Wayne Simmonds.
"We'll make adjustments," coach Terry Murray told the Kings' official website following Tuesday's practice. "It's a competitive game, and when you play hard, stuff happens in a game, injuries happen."
Murray is expected to pair Rob Scuderi next to Doughty and place center Brad Richardson on the third line.
Mitchell and Ponikarovsky, who each scored in a 5-2 victory at Dallas on Oct. 28, have keyed a penalty-killing unit that is among the league's best at 90.7 percent. Dallas is 1 for 18 with the man advantage on the road.
Los Angeles has not allowed a power-play goal in 21 chances while opening 6-0-0 at Staples Center, the team's best start at home since winning its first seven home games in 1980-81. A victory Thursday would give the Kings their longest home winning streak since a franchise-record 12-game run in 1992-93.
While the Kings try to win their fifth straight overall, the Stars (8-5-0) are looking to move past Saturday's 5-0 loss at Colorado that snapped a three-game winning streak.
After outscoring opponents 15-5 during that stretch, Dallas was outshot 45-31 in the first of three straight on the road.
"They were skating well and putting the puck in the net," Stars goaltender Andrew Raycroft said after stopping 40 shots. "They did pretty much everything they wanted to do."
The Kings did just that in last month's victory in Dallas - scoring four times on 15 shots against Kari Lehtonen - before Raycroft stopped all eight shots he faced in his first action with the Stars.
Whoever starts in goal for Dallas could have a tough test against the Kings' second line of Jarret Stoll, Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams, who have 14 goals and 34 points in the last 11 games.
"They have a lot of respect for each other and they work hard for each other," Murray said. "I love the way Justin Williams (team-high 14 points) is playing."
Jonathan Quick will likely return to net after Kings backup Jonathan Bernier made 25 saves Saturday in his fourth start this season.
Quick, looking to win his sixth consecutive start, beat the Stars two weeks ago and is 6-3-0 with a 2.40 goals-against average in nine starts against them.
Brad Richards, who leads Dallas with 18 points, is two goals shy of 200. He has three goals and 11 assists in nine career games at Los Angeles.
The Kings have won 12 of the last 16 meetings.