KINGS (41-22-5) at STARS (41-20-9)
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET; FS-W, FS-SW, NHL.TV
DALLAS -- For the second time in three games, the Dallas Stars will face a first-place team when the Los Angeles Kings visit American Airlines Center on Tuesday.
But they will play without forward Patrick Sharp, who remains sidelined with a lower-body injury.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff hoped Sharp would return after he practiced Monday for the first time since he was injured in the second period at the Nashville Predators on March 1. Sharp participated in the morning skate Tuesday but will miss his sixth straight game.
"He's real close," Ruff said. "He won't play tonight, so I don't anticipate any changes."
The Stars are 3-0-2 in their past five games and lead the Central Division with 91 points, edging the St. Louis Blues on ROW and point percentage, and are ahead of the Kings by four points in the Western Conference race.
The Kings lead the Pacific Division with 87 points, two ahead of the second-place Anaheim Ducks. They defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0 on Monday and are 8-2-2 in their past 12 games.
"Well, again I expect a heck of a hockey game," Ruff said. "I think [I] expected that the last few games and that's what we've seen. They're a good team, they're a heavy team. They won a heck of a game last night and we know we have our hands full."
Goalie Kari Lehtonen will start for the Stars after Antti Niemi made 31 saves in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Blues on Saturday.
Because the Kings are on the second night of a back-to-back, coach Darryl Sutter did not hold a morning skate Tuesday. But three players, forward Andy Andreoff, goaltender Jhonas Enroth and defenseman Jamie McBain, skated with two Kings assistant coaches.
Los Angeles is 8-1-1 in the second game of a back-to-back this season. Jonathan Quick made 32 saves against Chicago for his 41st NHL shutout, the most among American-born goaltenders, and has started each end of a back-to-back three times this season.
Here are the projected lineups:
Milan Lucic - Anze Kopitar - Kris Versteeg
Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Tanner Pearson - Vincent Lecavalier - Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford - Nick Shore - Trevor Lewis
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez
Brayden McNabb - Luke Schenn
Injured: Marian Gaborik (lower body), Matt Greene (upper body), Jordan Nolan (undisclosed)
Scratched: Andy Andreoff, Jamie McBain
Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Valeri Nichushkin - Jason Spezza - Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Ales Hemsky
Travis Moen - Vernon Fiddler - Brett Ritchie
Kris Russell - Alex Goligoski
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth - Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Jordie Benn (lower body), Jason Demers (shoulder), Mattias Janmark (upper body), John Klingberg (lower body), Patrick Sharp (lower body)
Scratched: Colton Sceviour
Status report: Ruff did not run lines Tuesday but is likely sticking with the same combinations and defensive pairings from the overtime loss to the Blues on Saturday. … Klingberg and Jordie Benn skated but neither will play. … Sceviour is a healthy scratch for a third consecutive game.
Who's hot: Lucic is on a six-game point streak (3-5-8) and has seven points (five goals) in 10 games against Dallas. … Spezza is on a career-high six-game goal streak and has 14 points (11 goals) in 14 games against Los Angeles.