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Khudobin makes most of another back-to-back opportunity in Stars' win

The reliable netminder helps carry Dallas to its fifth straight victory and second place in the Western Conference

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- It is an advantage the likes of which the Stars would be hard-pressed to quantify.

Dallas has one of the best backup goalies in the NHL, and that fact shows up most prominently in back-to-back games. Anton Khudobin has played in one half of seven back-to-backs this season, and is 6-1-0 in those games. He did it again Wednesday, stopping 30 of 31 shots to help the Stars to a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

 

[PHOTO JOURNAL: Go behind the scenes of the Stars' game day in Los Angeles]

 

The victory was the fifth in a row for the Stars and pushes them to 25-14-4, good for second place in the Western Conference. It also starts a four-game road trip off on the right foot, and that can't be underestimated as the team tries to move forward in a tough conference.

"We have an advantage every time the puck drops to start a game with our goaltending," said Stars center Tyler Seguin. "We have all the confidence in the world in Dobby. It seems like every time he plays, we rely on him too much, but he's our rock back there."

Video: DAL@LAK: Khudobin on 30-save effort in Stars' victory

Khudobuin and Ben Bishop form what might be the best goaltending duo in the league. Dallas ranks first in the NHL in goals against average and first in save percentage. While Bishop is a Vezina Trophy finalist from last season and has a 14-9-3 record in 28 appearances, Khudobin has an 11-5-1 mark in 18 appearances and has been a warrior on the road where he is 7-4-1.

"He's been fantastic, and we said this all of last year: We made the playoffs last year because of Anton's play with Bish getting hurt," Stars coach Rick Bowness said. "If he is in net, we know he's going to battle right through. We know every game going in, he's going to get the job done. It's up to us to give him some support."

That was the same Wednesday. Khudobin allowed a goal on the first shot against when Kings center Anze Kopitar was wide open to the left of the net after a blown coverage by the Stars. Khudobin then gave the Stars everything they needed to come back and take the win.

Seguin, who was part of the mistakes made on the Kopitar goal, set up Jamie Benn on the power play at the 14:46 mark of the second period to tie the game. Less than a minute later, Blake Comeau slapped in his sixth goal of the season for the game-winner.

Video: Benn, Comeau help Stars top Kings, 2-1

After a slow start, the Stars were a better team in part because Khudobin allowed them to be.

"He's been unbelievable; both of our goaltenders have all year," said Comeau. "You like to see great teammates who are good guys, good humans, have success. He's one of the best guys that I've played with. He just goes about his business and plays hard and plays when he's asked to play, and he's been a rock for us all year."

Khudobin ranks second in the NHL in goals against average at 2.13 and also is second in save percentage at .933. He says he doesn't think about when or where he will play, and just tries to be ready every day. However, he started consecutive games for the first time this season and now has started five of the past 10 games.

Asked if it is better for him to stay in a consistent rhythm, he said: "I'm not the coach, but yes, it is."

Video: DAL@LAK: Bowness on Khudobin's 'fantastic' effort

It might also be one of the reasons the team has been able to battle back from slow starts. Khudobin and Bishop create an environment where there is little panic. So when the Stars gave up the first goal and got behind for the fifth consecutive game, it was no surprise that the goaltending was able to keep the deficit at one and allow the comeback to start.

"From the 10-minute mark of the first right through the second period, we dominated," Bowness said. "The third period was pretty even. For whatever reason, we're falling behind. Yeah, we don't want to fall behind, but if we do, we deal with it and we keep playing our game."

Then once they get the lead, the Stars also have been finding a way to help the goalies out.

"Awesome, awesome, really good battle, especially at the end," Khudobin said of his teammates. "A lot of blocked shots and a lot of guys closing the shooting lanes. They were on top of them, and I think it was a great effort by everybody."

Video: DAL@LAK: Comeau snipes puck in off iron for lead

While Bishop is the No. 1 goalie and is scheduled to be the starter should the Stars make the playoffs, there is the expectation that Khudobin will get plenty of chances to stay in the great rhythm he's in.

"He makes the saves he's got to make to keep us in the game, and he battles," Bowness said. "He's a tremendous competitor."

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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