It’s back on the road for the Dallas Stars and this time they face two divisional games, starting with the Los Angeles Kings Thursday night.
This will be the Stars’ first game of the season against the Kings, who are one of the hottest teams in the league right now.
“They’re the Stanley Cup champions and they’ve been playing well lately,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “They got off to a slow start, but they seemed to have picked it up. It’s always big games against them.”
The Kings stumbled out of the gate this season, winning just three of their first ten games (3-5-2), but they’ve been on a roll lately, winning seven of their last eight (7-1-0) and six straight at home.
“That’s a good team, a good challenge,” said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley. “They’ve got a lot to throw at you. Four lines, good D, good goaltending, they are just a good all-around, strong team. It’s going to be a tough one for us, but a good challenge.”
The Stars, who have points in four of their last five games (3-1-1) and points in 10 of the last 15 (9-5-1), haven’t played since Sunday, when they defeated St. Louis 4-1 at American Airlines Center. The Kings, who played Monday and Tuesday, will be playing their third game in four nights and the Stars would like to try to take advantage of that.
“We’ve got to get on them early. They are three in four nights and we’ve had time to rest and ramp back up,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “They are a heavy team, a lot like St. Louis. We’ve got to be ready to play with some pace and match their physicality and their battle level.
“They play a very stingy, hard-nosed hockey game, and we are going to have to go in there with that same mindset. We have to play with a little bit more pace, and we think we can get on them a little bit. That’s what we are looking to do.”
The Stars have played only five games against the Pacific Division so far this season. They’ll play five this month, including Thursday’s tilt against the Kings and Saturday’s game at Phoenix, and then eight more in April.
“Games in the division are huge,” said Robidas. “Anytime you can steal two points from a team you are battling with, it’s huge. They are four-point games. It sounds cliché, but that’s exactly what it is.”
And the stakes will be high in those divisional games since all five teams in the Pacific likely will be in the playoff battle right up until the end. As of Wednesday, all five were in the top eight in the Western Conference.
“It’s a tough division. I think it’s the best division in the whole league,” said Robidas. “Maybe I am biased because we’re in it, but I think it is the toughest one.”