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Kings try to cool off sizzling Stars

by John Kreiser

STARS (6-1-0) at KINGS (4-1-1)

TV: TXA-21; FS-West

Season Series: It's the first of six meetings between the Pacific Division rivals. The Kings took the first two and last two games in '10-11 and were 2-0-1 at Staples Center.

Big Story: The Stars are one of the big surprises of the early season, winning five in a row and six of their first seven games -- including a 3-1 victory at Anaheim on Friday night. The Kings are playing only their second game at Staples Center, but they come home riding back-to-back shutouts after blanking St. Louis 5-0 in their home opener on Tuesday and winning 2-0 at Phoenix on Thursday.

Team Scope:

Stars : Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk dealt for goaltender Kari Lehtonen near the 2010 trading deadline and signed him to a three-year contract in hopes that he'd stay healthy enough to show the form that made him the second pick in the 2002 draft. He's been by far the biggest reason for the Stars' fast start and was at his best in Anaheim, turning aside 35 of 36 shots to improve to 6-0-0.

"Fortunately and unfortunately, we're relying on him to make a lot of those saves," captain Brenden Morrow said. "But we're kind of getting used to it. He's been huge for us all year. We're getting outshot almost double some nights. We've had one or two where we've had real good efforts and the ones where we've scratched and clawed and found a couple of goals and Kari's been huge for us, and that was the case tonight."

Kings : After surviving a schedule that has seen them travel 18,000 miles before the end of October, the Kings are ready to make some noise in the Pacific Division.

Coach Terry Murray is not surprised by his team's success.

"When we saw the schedule, players began preparing for this stretch," he said. "We have great leadership, veteran players and each took it upon themselves to recognize what we faced in the opening two weeks of the season."

Who's hot : Loui Eriksson had two of the Stars' three goals on Friday, giving him points in five consecutive games. Steve Ott, who will play in his 500th NHL game when he steps onto the ice, has points in six straight games. Lehtonen's 6-0-0 start is the best by Stars goaltender since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993. … Kings goalie Jonathan Quick comes into the game off consecutive shutouts -- he'll try to become the first goaltender in franchise history to get three in a row.

Injury report: The Stars are healthy. … Los Angeles is still without its top defenseman, Drew Doughty, who's sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered last week in Philadelphia.

Stat Pack: If Lehtonen plays, the Kings might be better off taking fewer shots. Lehtonen has faced at least 36 shots in all but one start this season and is 14-4-2 since the beginning of 2010-11 when facing at least 35 shots. But he was 2-4-0 against L.A. last season, while Quick is 10-2-0 against Dallas during a stretch that has seen Los Angeles go 15-4-2 in its last 21 meetings with Dallas.

Puck Drop: Another thing the Kings might be well-advised to do is make sure they're at least even with the Stars after 40 minutes. Dallas hasn't lost a game in regulation after two periods since Oct. 31, 2009,

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