Stars-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 20, 2013
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As good as the Los Angeles Kings have been at home, they would surely like to gain home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. It hasn't helped when they've faced the Dallas Stars lately. Dallas has handed the Kings half of their regulation home losses and can boost its postseason hopes Sunday night by winning in Los Angeles for the fifth straight time. Though they could be eliminated from the Pacific Division chase with a regulation loss Sunday and a win by first-place Anaheim, the Kings (24-14-5) are on the verge of a playoff berth. They are tied with San Jose for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and home-ice advantage to open the postseason. "We're still looking for home ice," defenseman Matt Greene said. "We've got to keep eating up points and go into the playoffs playing well." Greene returned Friday after missing 42 games following back surgery and helped Los Angeles limit Columbus to 21 shots in a 2-1 victory. "That's the best way to get back into it - in a playoff atmosphere," Greene said. It was the fifth consecutive home win for the Kings, who have allowed five goals in that span. They're 17-4-1 at Staples Center this season, but two of those losses came to Dallas last month as Jaromir Jagr totaled three goals. No West team has won even its last two games in Los Angeles other than the Stars, who have won four straight there. The only time they've had a longer road winning streak against their division rival was a six-game run 1997-2000. Dallas (22-19-3) also is the only team to beat Los Angeles more than twice this season, having won three of four meetings. "Unfortunately, some of (our top players) have not played very well against Dallas this year," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after a 5-1 road loss to the Stars on April 9 in the teams' last matchup. Jonathan Quick wasn't in net for the Kings' only victory in the season series but yielded 11 goals in the three losses. Since matching a season high for goals allowed in the loss at Dallas last week, Quick has gone 3-0-1 with a 1.44 goals-against average. "Things are rounding into form," Quick said after making 20 saves Thursday. "We haven't got in the playoffs yet, so we've got to keep playing like this." Dallas has a tougher road to the postseason, currently two points back of the West's eighth and final playoff spot with four games remaining. The Stars have lost two of three games after winning five straight and are coming off Friday's 2-1 defeat in St. Louis. "We just have to keep battling and play well the next game," goalie Kari Lehtonen said. "We're still in this - we just have to play a little better." It was Lehtonen's second game after missing three due to a groin injury suffered in the first period against the Kings. He has a 1.86 GAA in this season series. Ray Whitney has scored in all three games he's played versus Los Angeles this season, including two goals in the last meeting. He went pointless Friday to snap a six-game point streak during which he had four goals and six assists. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty has five goals in the past seven games after scoring one through the first 37.
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