Friday, April 1, 2011
Kings: There's magic in the Stars
By Dan Arritt
Kings (44-27-6, 94 points) vs. Dallas Stars (38-27-11, 87) at Staples Center, 1 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Number’s game – A colossal game for the Kings, maybe even bigger for the Stars. Los Angeles limps into the game with a magic number of six points over Dallas. A regulation win against the Stars would drop the number to two and eliminate Calgary as the only other team that could take their place in the top eight (of course, the Flames could also fall out of L.A.'s reach with a loss Friday night in St. Louis). If the Kings can beat the Stars in regulation, they could clinch a playoff spot with a Dallas regulation loss Sunday evening in Anaheim.
2. Bounce-back game – Both teams were likely doing some grumbling as they boarded their flights to L.A. late Thursday night. The Kings lost in Vancouver, 3-1, after allowing the go-ahead goal on a 3-on-1 rush with one second left in the second period. The Stars never showed up against the Sharks in a 6-0 loss in San Jose, allowing 52 shots on goal in their fifth straight defeat. Have the Stars thrown the parachute on their playoff run? The opening period against the Kings should shed some light.
3. Have you seen me? – When the Kings traded for Dustin Penner on Feb 28, giggles and back slaps swept over Kings Nation. Penner is a proven 30-goal scorer that fit into the lineup like a thumb in a glove. He had an impact in his first game three days later, creating a screen for the only goal in 1-0 victory against Phoenix. He scored a goal in his second game against Vancouver, then followed up with points in his next five. Just like the rest of the Kings, he disappeared in a 4-0 loss against St. Louis on St. Patrick’s Day, the only difference is Penner hasn’t been seen since, going the last seven games with no points and just seven shots on goal. The injuries to Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar may have impacted Penner the most.
4. Handzus OK – Probably the best news to come out of the loss to Vancouver is the Kings avoided further injury. Michal Handzus, who has taken over Kopitar’s top-line center role, crashed hard into the boards late in the third period while trying to out-race two Vancouver players to the puck. He was knocked off his feet and slid into the right-wing boards, slamming the side of his head on a panel. Handzus gripped his head and laid on the ice for a few seconds but skated off and returned a short time later. He practiced with the team Friday in El Segundo.
5. Ott's last shot -- As long as Dallas center Steve Ott is on the ice, there’s always potential for rough-housing. Ott and the Kings haven’t got along this season, but Ott barely gets along with his own team. The most heated game at Staples Center this season remains the Nov. 11 meeting between the Kings and Stars. Both teams combined for 91 penalty minutes in the 3-1 victory by Los Angeles, with Ott visiting the box three times. He has managed to stay penalty-free the last six games, but maybe that's just another sign that Dallas has lost its edge.