Saturday, October 22, 2011
Kings: Sparks flying as Stars visit
By Dan Arritt
Kings (4-1-1, 7 points) vs. Dallas Stars (6-1-0, 12 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1.Plugged in – It was predicted during the preseason that the Kings would improve their power-play numbers and, so far, they’ve lived up to expectations. The Kings have converted on 25 percent of their extra-man opportunities (6-24), which is tied for sixth in the league in efficiency. The Kings finished 21st in that category last season (16.2 percent). Mike Richards, acquired in the offseason from Philadelphia, has assisted on four power-play goals, including two 4-on-3 game-winners in overtime. His presence seems to make everyone better on the first unit.
2. Richards in the red – One curious stat beneath Richards’ name, he has the lowest plus-minus rating on the team at minus-2, even though the Kings have outscored their opponents, 16-10, this season. Of course, power-plays goals don't factor into the plus-minus, and he certainly isn’t on the team for his defense, but at some point his 5-on-5 scoring should outpace his goals against. His career plus-37 attests to that. So far, at even strength this season, Richards has just one goal and no assists.
3. Back-to-back blanks – Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has shutouts in two staight games for the first time in his career. The organization has never had a goalkeeper record three consecutive shutouts. Quick, who recorded his 100th career victory Thursday night in a 2-0 victory in Phoenix, was named the starter against Dallas following practice Friday. Coach Terry Murray is obviously sticking with his preseason plan to ride with the hottest hand in goal. Quick has a career-best 10 victories against the Stars, a 2.07 goals-against average and one of his 16 shutouts. He'll need to be at his best again, as Dallas has won five straight.
4. Andrei vs. Trevor – Trevor Lewis edged out Andrei Loktionov for the team’s fourth-line center role, but thus far he’s hardly running away with the opportunity. Lewis has not scored a point in six games while averaging 11:23 of ice time. He also sits at minus-1. And it’s not like he hasn’t been involved in some prime scoring chances, he just hasn't shown the hands to finish. Meanwhile, heading into Friday’s game, Loktionov leads the American Hockey League in points with 10 (three goals, seven assists in six games) and is a league-best plus-9. Loktionov is obviously proving he’s beyond the AHL. Now it’s up to Lewis to show he’s capable of playing in the NHL.
5. Searching for Gordie Howe – Against the Coyotes on Thursday night, fourth-line enforcer Kevin Westgarth made it two-thirds of the way to the Gordie Howe hat trick, which is comprised of a goal, an assist and a fight in the same game. Westgarth has a dinner bet with fellow fourth-liner Kyle Clifford on who will earn the first Gordie Howe. It was Westgarth who set up Clifford with a timely cross-ice path that led to the second goal against the Coyotes. He also got into a lengthy first-period scrap with Phoenix enforcer Paul Bissonnette. Probably no surprise Westgarth and Clifford have such good chemistry, both on and off the ice.