Home-ice advantage could help the Dallas Stars finally get through the first round of the playoffs. It certainly seems to have given them a big edge against the Los Angeles Kings the past two seasons.
A slump has hurt the Stars' chances of moving into fourth place in the Western Conference, but they appear to have an excellent opportunity to end their struggles when they host the league-worst Kings on Saturday.
After being knocked out in the first round of the playoffs each of the past three seasons, Dallas (42-28-5) is desperately trying to earn home-ice advantage to give it a better chance to advance this year. The Stars, with seven games remaining to catch fourth-place Anaheim in the West, have opened the playoffs at home just once over the last three years.
"Saturday's game is huge for us," said Dallas goaltender Marty Turco, whose team has lost three straight and six of seven. "We need points, that's all."
The Stars have clearly benefited from home games against the Kings (29-40-6), winning seven straight against them at the American Airlines Center. Dallas is 3-0-0 at home versus Los Angeles this season, outscoring the Kings 12-2.
But the Stars have been terrible at home in March, losing two straight and four of five. They entered this month with a 21-10-2 home record.
This is the finale of a three-game homestand for Dallas, which is coming off a 2-1 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday night. The Stars surrendered a power-play goal with 27.2 seconds remaining, missing a chance to gain ground on the Ducks.
"We believe that it's going to start going our way again," Dallas winger Niklas Hagman said. "We know that we haven't played as well as we can. I don't know what the solution is, we just got to work hard. You got to believe that it's going to change. We don't have too many games to get it on the right track."
The Stars have been held to 13 goals over the last seven games. Dallas' Brenden Morrow scored the team's only goal against Anaheim, giving him a team-high 28.
The veteran winger has three goals and six assists in his last eight games versus Los Angeles.
The Kings, meanwhile, are coming off one of their best offensive performances of the season, beating Phoenix 6-5 in a shootout on Thursday night.
Patrick O'Sullivan scored the shootout's decisive goal, and also had two assists. Los Angeles totaled one goal in losing its previous two games.
Kings defenseman Tom Preissing had two goals against the Coyotes while Dustin Brown, Peter Harrold and Raitis Ivanans also found the back of the net.
Brown, the 13th overall pick in the 2003 draft, is having a career season. The winger leads Los Angeles with 31 goals and has a career-best 54 points.
Brown, though, has been held off the scoresheet in five of six games against Dallas this season. The Stars lead the series 3-1-2.