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Stars visit Kings with playoff positions on line

by Matthew Mankiewich

STARS (22-19-3) at KINGS (25-14-5)


Last 10: Dallas 6-4-0, Los Angeles 6-2-2

Season series: Final game of the intradivisional five; the Dallas Stars have won three of four. Two of the three game-winning goals were scored by Brenden Morrow and Jaromir Jagr, who have since been traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins, respectively.

Big story: The Stars need the two points to keep pace with the Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets, who join them in the fight for the final Western Conference playoff spot. The Los Angeles Kings want to protect their fourth seed from the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues while trying to take a bite out of the Anaheim Ducks' Pacific Division lead.

Team Scope:

Stars: Dallas had been riding high, winning six of seven with a lot of speed, aggression and opportune scoring. But Ken Hitchcock and the St. Louis Blues had an answer Friday, clogging the ice and handing the Stars a 2-1 loss in a game reminiscent of Hitchcock's time in Dallas, when it won the Stanley Cup in 1999 and made the Final the following year.

"I thought we played real hard and made a big push in the third to get some offense on a real stingy team," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan told "Against this type of team, you have to play a certain way to stay in there and be able to make a push. We did but fell just a little short."

Kings: Thursday night was a double bonus. Not only did the Kings get back defenseman Matt Greene, but they also managed to cool off the Blue Jackets with a 2-1 win, ending Columbus' five-game winning streak. Greene had been out since Jan. 19, undergoing back surgery to repair a herniated disc, and now figures to be an important part of the playoff lineup.

"I was just thinking, 'Don't mess up too much.' That's it," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I messed up a few times. It'll get better and move on. But you really can't simulate that, going back for pucks or battling in the corner. You've just got to go out and do it."

Who's hot: Stars forward Ray Whitney had a six-game point streak stopped Friday. Defenseman Stephane Robidas has an assist in back-to-back games. ... Kings forward Anze Kopitar has assists in seven of his past eight games. Forward Mike Richards has points in eight of 10. Defenseman Drew Doughty has goals in five of seven.

Injury report: Stars defenseman Trevor Daley (upper body) missed Friday's game and is questionable for Sunday, as is forward Alex Chiasson (shoulder), who has been out since Monday. Forward Lane MacDermid (upper body) is out indefinitely. ... The Kings skate with a clean bill of health.

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