Kings look to stop bleeding against Stars
Monday, 10.19.2009 / 4:30 PM
KINGS (4-4-0) at STARS (3-1-3)
: This is the first of six meetings between the Pacific Division rivals, and the start of a home-and-home series that concludes on Thursday in Los Angeles. The Kings went 4-1-1 against the Stars last season, with four of the meetings requiring more than regulation.
: Marc Crawford is back behind an NHL bench and is off to a quality start with the Dallas Stars. Crawford, who coached Los Angeles from 2006-08, has watched his new team earn points in six of its first seven games.
: The biggest reason for L.A.'s recent struggles is the fact that roughly one-third of the team is battling the flu. In their three consecutive losses, the Kings -- who have plenty of firepower up front -- have scored only five goals.
"We've probably got seven, eight guys out there that are really, really low on energy right now," Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said after Saturday's 4-1 loss at Columbus. "It showed, as we had to play catch-up. The tank just empties out too quickly. You call on a few guys, and even though they're healthy, they're playing in too many situations that are very hard to get through."
: Brad Richards is showing the form that helped him win the Conn Smythe Trophy with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. The 29-year-old center is off to a tremendous start with the Stars, as he's tallied 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) in the team's first seven games. He and his teammates suffered a minor setback on Friday night in a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins at American Airlines Center, but bounced back nicely on Saturday in a 4-3 win at Chicago.
"I thought that we were guilty of going to the easy areas a little bit too much," Crawford said after Friday's loss. "A team like Boston will do that -- they'll spread you out, push you to the outside. They will give you the corner areas in the offensive zone, but let's face it … the goals are scored in the high-traffic areas in front of the net."
: Anze Kopitar
(4-8-12) and newcomer Ryan Smyth
(5-5-10) are both averaging more than a point per game for the Kings. Three of Smyth's five goals have come via the power play. For Dallas, captain Brenden Morrow is just a point off the team lead in points and has five goals in seven games. Marty Turco has only one victory in five appearances, but he's posted a 2.29 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.
: Kings defenseman Alec Martinez
(lower body) is out indefinitely, while left wing Brad Richardson is day-to-day with the flu. He did not play Saturday. Right wing Rich Clune
is currently rehabbing his groin injury with AHL Manchester.
Stars centers Mike Modano (ribs) and Steve Ott (oblique) will not play Monday. Right wing Jere Lehtinen, who has been battling various injuries, could play against Los Angeles.
: If Los Angeles is going to get back on track, the power play has to improve quickly. The Kings have converted only once in their last 17 opportunities with the man advantage. They went 0-for-5 in Columbus on Saturday, one of the many reasons why a brief players-only meeting was held after the loss.
"We had a talk in here," Kings defenseman Matt Greene
said. "It was a good talk. There were a lot of points brought up and everybody knows what they've got to do in order to stop the bleeding."
Crawford has relied heavily on Stephane Robidas in the early going. The Stars' defenseman logged 26:56 of ice time on Saturday and scored the game-winning goal at Chicago -- on a shot from center ice.
"I just had the puck in the neutral zone and there was no sense for me to try to do something stupid so I just tried to rim it," Robidas said. "I didn't do anything special."
: Health is obviously the main concern for the Kings right now as several players battle flu-like symptoms, but it's important for a young team to not allow the losses to pile up. Los Angeles will have to better with the power play and in the faceoff circle in order to avoid a fourth straight loss.
-- Brian Compton, NHL.com