Kings-Stars Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 11, 2012
The Los Angeles Kings currently hold a playoff position while the Dallas Stars are not too far back. These Pacific Division rivals complete their season series Sunday night in Dallas, with the Stars looking to defeat the Kings for the fourth straight meeting. Los Angeles (26-19-11) is in seventh place in the Western Conference standings with 63 points while Dallas (28-23-3) is just outside the top eight with 59. These clubs have played four one-goal games and another decided by two thanks to an empty-net tally. The Kings won the first two before the Stars responded by taking the last three. Dallas winger Michael Ryder has a team-high five points in the season series, with All-Star Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson adding four apiece. Los Angeles is led by Anze Kopitar's six points against Dallas, with Dustin Brown and Mike Richards chipping in five apiece. The Kings, however, continue to own the NHL's worst offense after Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Islanders. Richards' goal drought reached 11 games on his 27th birthday, his worst stretch since the first 22 games of the 2006-07 season with Philadelphia. Brown has failed to score in eight straight games for his worst drought of the season. "We need more consistency,'' coach Darryl Sutter said. "That's the only answer for us.'' Jonathan Quick made 23 saves, allowing two goals or fewer for the sixth straight contest, but failed to meet his coach's expectations. "I didn't think he was especially sharp tonight," Sutter said. Los Angeles has totaled six goals in going 1-3-1 heading into the finale of this six-game trip. The Kings have killed off all 11 penalties in that span, extending that run to 14. "We'll take the one point, we'll go to Dallas tomorrow and we'll focus on getting two," Quick said. The Stars are looking for some offense at home, where they have totaled seven goals in a 2-3-1 stretch. They took three of four points from a two-day road trip, falling 3-2 in a shootout to Buffalo on Friday. Dallas, though, allowed the Sabres to score the tying goal with 39 seconds left in regulation. "Leading until the last minute, we can be happy about that,'' goaltender Kari Lehtonen said. "But we have to be able to close these games. Two points is a lot better than one.'' The Stars feel they have been showing improvement offensively. They outshot Columbus 35-28 in Thursday's 4-2 victory and held a 22-16 advantage through two periods Friday before allowing 16 of the last 20 shots. "I thought right from the beginning we managed our game pretty good and limited their chances," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We did what we wanted to do defensively. It came down to the last minute and they had to pull their goalie. Those things happen in the league." Lehtonen made his fourth straight start. He's 4-1-1 with a 1.78 goals-against average in his last six. "He's been a big part of this team all year," Ryder said. "When we look to him to make those big saves, he's making them. He's a big, very agile goaltender. He's one of the reasons we're in the playoff hunt."
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