Kings (5-2-1, 11 points) vs. Dallas Stars (7-2-0, 14 points) at American Airlines Center, 5:30 p.m. (PT)
Five storylines to track:
1. Quick returns -- After a one-game hiatus to allow backup Jonathan Bernier to get in a game, Kings goalkeeper Jonathan Quick is slated to be back in net, where he'll attempt to get his team a win and, less important to him and more important to everyone else outside the Kings' dressing room, extend his three-game shutout streak. Quick just faced the Stars in his most recent start Saturday, stopping 28 shots in the 1-0 victory to set franchise records for longest shutout streak and consecutive shutouts. The last NHL goalie to record four consecutive shutouts was Brian Boucher of Phoenix in 2003-04. He went on to set a modern-day record with five straight.
2. Scoring drought -- Kings right wing Dustin Brown said it best after the 3-0 loss Tuesday night against New Jersey, “With our system, we’re going to be in some tight one-goal games.” Despite all the offensive skill the Kings have on the roster, their dump-and-chase system still doesn’t allow for many high-scoring games, or highlight-reel goals. The Kings have scraped together just one goal in the last seven periods and three in the last nine, with the top line of Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Simon Gagne getting blanked in that span. Mike Richards hasn’t scored a goal since the season opener and Dustin Penner is still looking for his first of the season.
3. Doughty close? -- Kings defenseman Drew Doughty changed into a full-contact jersey for Wednesday’s practice, but his availability to play against the Stars is still to be determined by the training staff. While the 21-year-old has been sidelined because of a shoulder injury, the Kings have gone 4-1. They’re 8-3 without him over the last two seasons. That certainly doesn’t mean the Kings are better off without their highest-paid player, but it does show the depth they have on the back end.
4. Staying positive -- Kings defenseman Jack Johnson is continuing his responsible play at both ends of the ice. He’s a plus-4 for the season with only one game in the red in the first eight. By comparison, he was minus-21 during the regular season last year and finished in the red 37 of 82 games. He’s also the only player on the Kings to score a goal in the last two games.
5. Early nominee -- The rookie everyone is talking about this season isn’t even a player. Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan took the reigns after former Kings coach Marc Crawford was fired at the end of last season and he can’t seem to make a bad move. Gulutzan, who never played or coached in the NHL before this season, has the Stars off to their best start since 2006. He’s gaining recognition for having his team ready to play every game, and for his subtle in-game adjustments that give his team the edge down the stretch. Four of their seven wins have come by one goal and another in a shootout. If the season ended today, he would likely be the coach of the year.