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Stars expect slumping Kings to bring 'A-game' at home

Khudobin to start in net for Dallas against Los Angeles, which has dropped five of its last seven games

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer
Stars (24-14-4) vs. Kings (17-23-4)

9 p.m., Staples Center

TV: NBCSN

Radio: The Ticket 1310-AM, 96.7-FM

 

LOS ANGELES -- As much as the Stars' 4-1 win over Detroit on Friday was a return to normalcy, this contest after four days without a game is really getting back to the grind for Dallas.

This will start a stretch of three games in four days, and the Stars will have to deal with a lower-body injury to John Klingberg and a five-game suspension for Corey Perry.

And while they're taking on a Kings team that is 17-23-4 and has lost five of its past seven games, Stars coach Rick Bowness said that is a scary challenge.

"We're playing a team that has lost back-to-back homes game, and they're playing Vegas tomorrow, so they're going to be coming very very hard," Bowness said. "So we're hoping the rest helped and we're hoping the hard practices helped, and we get through that first period."

Video: DAL@LAK: Bowness previews Stars' matchup with Kings

Todd McLellan was hired as the coach of the Kings before this season, and this team has dominated the shot clock as many McLellan teams have before. Los Angles is first in shots against at 28.4 per game, fifth in shots on goal at 33.6, and second in shot differential at plus-5.3.

In many analytic studies, that would be mean a good team. However, the Kings are not getting great goaltending or great special teams, and that means they have struggled on a regular basis.

Los Angeles ranks 20th in goals against at 3.16 and 28th in save percentage at .889. Meanwhile, the power play ranks 30th at 14.9 percent and the penalty kills is 27th at 74.8 percent. The Kings are coming off a 4-2 home loss to Columbus on Monday.

"We have to play an A-game to win right now," McLellan told reporters in Los Angeles. "We have to play an A-game to score. We need tremendous goaltending. We need good penalty kill. We've got to prevent goals to have success. And that's OK. We know where we are. That's OK with us. But some nights we just don't get all of that at the same time and it costs us."

 

What to watch

With Klingberg battling his lower-body injury, the Stars are shuffling on defense.

The lineup Wednesday is expected to start with Esa Lindell and Roman Polak on the top pairing. Polak is right-handed, and that's one of the reasons to put him in Klingberg's spot, but he also has shown he can eat up bigger minutes when needed.

Polak played 19:31 in the 4-1 win over Detroit and is averaging 16:43 on the year. He is second on the team in shorthanded time on ice at 2:50 per game.

Video: Cogliano discusses facing his former team this week

 

Khudobin to start in net; Kiviranta back in lineup

Anton Khudobin will be in goal. He ranks second in the NHL in save percentage at .931 and third in goals against average at 2.20. He has won four starts in a row and will be starting consecutive games for the first time this season. Khudobin is 3-1-0 in his career against the Kings with a 1.72 GAA and .941 save percentage.

Corey Perry will serve Game 2 of a five-game suspension, so Joel Kiviranta will play in his second NHL game. Kiviranta gets the nod over Justin Dowling, who has been scratched for four straight games, because he can play right win and Dowling is more comfortable at center.

Video: Perry reacts to five-game suspension from league

 

By the numbers
4:12

Esa Lindell leads the NHL in shorthanded time on ice per game at 4:12. Vancouver's Chris Tanev is second at 3:39. Lindell is leading a Stars penalty kill that currently ranks sixth at 82.9 percent.

 

18

Stars winger Alexander Radulov has 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) in 15 career games against the Kings. He is plus-6 in that span.

 

7

The Stars lead the NHL with seven games won when trailing after two periods. Dallas has three of those seven wins in the past four games. They also trailed in the other win, allowing the first goal of the game to Detroit.

Video: NSH@DAL: Stars erupt for three goals in 3rd for lead

 

He said it

"Those are just freak accidents, and I can't control that. It is what it is. The suspension now, you work hard to be ready and it's unfortunate, we play five games in two weeks or whatever it is. It's a little bit of a longer wait, but I'll be ready when I come back and go from there."

-- Perry on missing five games because of a suspension caused by an elbowing penalty in the Winter Classic

 

Stars projected lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov

Denis Gurianov - Roope Hintz - Joe Pavelski

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Joel Kiviranta

Esa Lindell - Roman Polak

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera - Taylor Fedun

Anton Khudobin

Ben Bishop

Scratched: C Justin Dowling, D Joel Hanley

Injured: D John Klingberg (lower body), D Stephen Johns (post-traumatic headaches), C Martin Hanzal (back)

Suspended: RW Corey Perry

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Buffalo Sabres when they return home to American Airlines Center on Thursday, Jan. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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