STARS (32-28-14) at KINGS (42-25-6)
Last 10 --
Dallas 4-4-2; Los Angeles 4-4-2
Season series --
Fortunately for the Stars, they don't play the Kings every night. It's the final meeting for these Pacific Division rivals, and the Kings have won all of them, twice this month alone. If they complete the sweep, it will be their first since 1990-91.
Big story --
Unfortunately for the Kings, they only had the Stars these three times on the post-Olympic schedule. They had been riding a 10-1-1 wave going into the break, but have only managed a 5-5-2 clip since. The Stars haven't been much better, especially on the road, where they've been 2-3-0 since the break.
One highlight of the season for Stars fans is the team's performance against the Sharks this season. They had taken three of the first four meetings, including an 8-2 rout on March 16 that chased Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. So the prospect of a badly-needed road sweep was still realistic going into Thursday's game at HP Pavilion, where the Stars were 9-2-1 since December 2006.
Nabokov got a measure of revenge, stopping all 27 shots he faced in a 3-0 shutout and the Stars took another step to the edge of playoff elimination. Marty Turco stopped 38 shots, and he'll get a breather Saturday as Kari Lehtonen
is scheduled to start.
"The Sharks were quick to the puck, but on our side we just wound up in the penalty box too much," coach Marc Crawford said. "It's fair to say (penalty killing) is a concern. We also couldn't win a draw tonight, which was significant."
Back-to-back defeats have dropped the Kings to sixth place in the Western Conference, a point behind the Predators, one point ahead of the Avalanche and Red Wings, but still most importantly seven up on the ninth-place Calgary Flames. When a team is trying to end an eight-year playoff drought, that's what matters most.
"I think it's important for us as a team, not to worry about it," Dustin Brown
told the team's Web site. "You look at the standings every day, but ultimately it comes down to how you play the game. It should be irrelevant whether Detroit or Calgary or any other team wins. We have to take care of our own business."
Who's hot --
A couple of Stars had point streaks broken in the Sharks' shutout, namely Brad Richards at six and Loui Eriksson
at five. Mike Ribeiro
has 11 goals and 21 assists for 32 points in 32 career games against Los Angeles. Anze Kopitar
has six goals in the Kings' five wins over Dallas so far while Alexander Frolov sets the pace with seven total points (2g, 5a).
Injury report --
After all these years, it took an appendix to effectively end the career of Mike Modano. He had the surgery last Monday, and is out indefinitely, making an appearance before the end of the season very iffy.
Kings defenseman Matt Greene
(upper body) participated in an optional practice Friday, but afterward coach Terry Murray said Greene "is getting better. He's day-to-day but he's not going to be in the lineup (Saturday)."
Stat pack --
The Kings have failed to break the 25-shot mark in three of their last six games, which has been a concern for Murray. They did top 30 in their last two, but most of those came in the third period trying to overcome two-goal deficits.
"I think we've gotten away from -- and the stats back it up -- away from the shots, putting pucks to the net," Murray said Friday on the Kings' official Web site. "That is a very clear stat that's popping up in the recent games. I know, whenever we come back to the bench after a shift, we're talking to the line about the net presence. We seem to be looking to cycle the puck more than getting possession, having the net presence established and getting pucks to the net."
Puck drop --
While the Kings are reasonably safe among the top eight, they have an opportunity to secure and preserve a good seeding, an opportunity they've let slip by. Hope and time are both running out for the Stars, but a solid finish, especially given how the younger players have developed, can go a long way toward next year.