The Dallas Stars signed forward Ales Hemsky to a three-year, $12 million contract on July 1 shortly after acquiring linemate Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators. The hope was the reunion would provide a spark to Hemsky's game and give the Stars a formidable top six.
In the Oct. 9 opener against the Chicago Blackhawks, Hemsky skated with Spezza on the second line. Thursday against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center, he could be a healthy scratch if forward Cody Eakin returns from an upper-body injury.
"[Hemsky] is going to be a game-time decision," coach Lindy Ruff told the Stars website. "We don't know if Eakin is going to be ready. I've asked him to put in a little extra work."
Hemsky has one assist in 15 games. During a 14-game pointless streak he has 19 shots on goal, with eight coming in one game. Ruff said he believes there's "a lot of frustration in his game" because he hasn't finished on his scoring opportunities.
"It just doesn’t go in and you have to stick with it," Hemsky said. "You just have to focus on your effort, work hard. If you aren't scoring you just have to do different things. You want to be a positive factor, helping scoring-wise."
Spezza centered the top line at the morning skate, flanked by Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, a line that's combined for 19 goals and 47 points in 15 games. Eakin centered the second line between Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt.
"The Eakin line has been a good line, if he can go [Thursday]," Ruff said. "If he can't we just go back to the lines we had the game before."
The Stars' 4-3 win Tuesday against the Arizona Coyotes snapped a seven-game losing streak. Dallas (5-6-4) has been active offensively with an average of 35.3 shots in its past four games, a favorable trend against the Kings, who gave up 88 shot attempts to the Anaheim Ducks in a 6-5 shootout loss Wednesday and rank 26th in the NHL with 33.1 shots allowed per game.
"We are a good team when we are on our toes and we are forechecking," Ruff said. "It took us 20 minutes to get that game going in Phoenix. I don't want to take 20 minutes to get it going. We need to get it going in the first five minutes."
The Kings have alternated wins and losses since dropping four straight, a run that started with a 3-1 win against the Stars on Nov. 4 at American Airlines Center.
"You just have to be consistent against them," Kings coach Darryl Sutter told LAKingsInsider.com. "You can't give them open space, and you can't let them 2-on-1 you, and you can't turn the puck over. It's a demanding checking game to play against them. You can't let them on the power play.
"They're just dangerous guys. You see times where you say they're not doing much, and then Seguin will come up with a couple goals like he did the other night, or Benn [will] run somebody over. You know what? We need that a little bit more out of our group in terms of those top guys doing that."
Goalie Martin Jones was first off the ice and is expected to start for the Kings one night after Jonathan Quick stopped 49 shots in the loss to the Ducks. Jones is 1-1-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. Goalie Kari Lehtonen will start for the Stars.
Here are the projected lineups:
Jamie Benn - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel - Cody Eakin - Ryan Garbutt
Curtis McKenzie - Vernon Fiddler - Patrick Eaves
Erik Cole – Shawn Horcoff – Colton Sceviour
Brenden Dillon – Trevor Daley
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Jordie Benn – Jamie Oleksiak
Scratched: Kevin Connauton, Ales Hemsky
Injured: Patrik Nemeth (right arm laceration), Valeri Nichushkin (hip/groin)
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King – Mike Richards – Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford – Jarret Stoll – Trevor Lewis
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez – Matt Greene
Brayden McNabb -- Jamie McBain
Scratched: Andy Andreoff
Injured: Robyn Regehr (lower body)
Suspended: Slava Voynov
Status report: Regher skated Thursday for the first time since he was injured late in a loss to the New York Islanders on Nov. 6. "It felt really good," Regehr said, according to LAKingsInsider.com. "I just felt like I’ve been off the ice for a week. I’m going to have to put the work in here to get through that and do the conditioning and handling pucks and going through little drills as much as I can. Try to get up to speed as quickly as possible." … Forward Travis Moen, acquired by the Stars in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday, is going through the immigration process and may not join Dallas until Friday.
Who's hot: Seguin has five goals in his past two games and points in three of his past four games against the Kings. … Roussel has three assists in his past three games, matching a career high. … Kopitar has four points in his past two games. He had three in his first 11. … Muzzin has five points in his past three games.