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Stars set to host Kings

by Tal Pinchevsky
KINGS (38-25-5) at STARS (37-23-8)


Last 10: Los Angeles 6-3-1; Dallas 8-1-1.

Season series: This is the fifth meeting in a season series that has the Kings holding a slight 2-1-1 advantage heading into Dallas. The teams will meet again on April 2 in what will be the final leg of their respective playoff runs. They last met less than a week ago on Mar. 7, a game that saw Stars captain Brenden Morrow net the OT winner in a 4-3 Dallas victory. The win allowed the Stars to close their West-Coast road swing with a 3-0-1 record.

Big story: In a Western-Conference playoff race that has eight teams separated by the slimmest of margins, the Kings and Stars are in the thick of the battle. Dallas has a one-point lead over Los Angeles in the standings, but the slightest slump could drop either team out of the playoffs altogether. If both teams' recent play is any indication, those slumps aren't coming anytime soon.

After a disastrous 5-8-0 record in January, the Kings have stormed back, going 11-2-4 since Feb. 1. The Stars have shaken off a slump of their own, going 1-8-1 to start February before rebounding with a 6-0-2 record since. The recent surge has allowed both teams to regain playoff spots after momentarily dropping out of the conference's top eight.

Team scope:

Kings: Los Angeles hasn’t looked back since going 6-1-3 on their team-record 10-game road swing in February. After opening their current four-game road stretch with a 2-1 win in Detroit, the Kings came into Columbus on Friday and left with a resounding 4-2 victory over the Blue Jackets.

The charge was led almost entirely by Anze Kopitar, who registered a hat trick by the time the game was barely half over.  Kopitar’s linemate, Justin Williams, contributed three points of his own and rookie goaltender Jonathan Bernier finished with 32 saves.

"We look at the standings. We know where we are. We know how important every game is. It doesn't matter who we play," said Williams. "It was great, getting a great start to this road trip, two straight, and now we're going to look to sweep the road trip."

Stars: In the midst of a season-long seven-game homestand, the Stars have a great opportunity to put some space between themselves and the Western-Conference pack. They could even take back top spot in the Pacific Division from the Sharks, whom they will play twice before the end of March.

After opening their home stay on Wednesday with a 4-3 shootout loss to Calgary, the Stars rebounded nicely against the Wild on Friday. Four different Stars scored and Kari Lehtonen had a relatively easy night, stopping 14 shots for the 4-0 shutout win. With his game-winner, Jamie Benn extended his goal-scoring streak to a career-high six games.

Who's hot: With the hat trick, Kopitar now has 19 points in his last 14 games while Kings teammate Williams has 7 points on his current four-game point streak. … Along with Benn's impressive goal streak, Dallas teammate, Mike Ribeiro, has 12 points in his last 11 games.

Injury report: Other than Scott Parse (hip surgery) on IR, the Kings are icing a healthy lineup. … Adam Burish, who is suffering with a lower-body injury, is Dallas’ only scratch.

Stat pack: Against Minnesota, Brad Richards got his first point since returning on Wednesday from a concussion. In his absence, the Stars went 5-4-1.

Puck drop: You'll rarely see a game featuring two head coaches with more experience. Los Angeles' Terry Murray and Dallas' Marc Crawford both rank in the top 20 on the League's all-time regular-season wins list. Crawford was Murray's predecessor behind the Kings' bench and the two coaches have combined for 1,022 regular season wins.

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