The Dallas Stars host the Los Angeles Kings in their final home game before taking off on a three-game road trip. Dallas is back on the outside of the playoff picture, looking in after the Edmonton Oilers victory last night. LA is in the midst of a surprise season, currently sitting in the second spot in the Pacific Division after finishing near the bottom of the league last season.
“You watch them play in the neutral zone, they are so strong defensively,” Bowness said. “I talk a lot about getting offense from your team defense, that team is a perfect example of it.”
The Stars have been on a rollercoaster ride all season long. Recently, that ride has consisted of leaping in and out of the playoff picture seemingly on a nightly basis. With three road games against divisional opponents on the horizon, this game feels like it has a certain level of importance. However, at this point in the season and with the position Dallas is in, each game has the importance of a playoff game.
“It’s great,” Rick Bowness said about having proper days off for practice and rest after the extremely condensed schedule last season. “Look at next week, there is a three-day break. We’ve got a tough four-game stretch coming up here and it will be a tough road trip but then we’ve got three days after that. Now your options as a coach, you can give the guys that need the rest the rest, you can put the guys on the ice that need extra work on the ice, and if you need a couple days ot team practice, we didn’t have that once last year.”
As has been the case 11 times in the last 12 games, Jake Oettinger will get the start in net for the Stars. The kid is 7-2-1 in his last ten games and currently holds an excellent .923 save percentage.
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“We are playing better team defense but Jake is making the saves we need him making,” Bowness said. “We talk a lot about the timely save and the timely goal and he is making the timely save.”
The Kings are on a roll lately, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. They are also one of the better road teams in the NHL, with an impressive 15-6-5 record away from the City of Angels. However, LA is coming off of a blowout loss to the Boston Bruins 7-0 on home ice and will surely be fired up against Dallas.
Captain Anze Kopitar has been the clear leader in production for the Kings this season. He has 50 points in 54 games with Adrien Kempe next up 14 points behind. On the backend, the familiar face of Drew Doughty will be greeting many Dallas top players, as he once again leads the team with 26:22 of ice time.
“They block a lot of shots,” Bowness said of the Kings. “We have to run three high more, we have to try to get them spread out. Any team that collapses around the net like they do, you’ve got to bring them to you. We’ve got to bring three high more in the offensive zone and get our D involved, let them come up to our D, which will give us a little more room down by the net.”
For Dallas, the story lately has been their young players. Oettinger has cemented himself as the top goaltender while Thomas Harley has played seven straight NHL game, picking up his first career point on Sunday against Buffalo.
“It’s been coming for the past couple games,” Harley said. “You grow up dreaming it’s going to be a little more memorable than just a poke back down the wall. They don’t ask how, they ask how many? So I’m happy.”
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Over the last few games, Rick Bowness has experimented with a pairing of Harley alongside John Klingberg. The two have had some chemistry and the experience has assisted in Harley’s development. While the coaching staff wants ro remain patient, Harley is proving that he can handle more responsibility with each passing game.
“There comes a time when we’ve got to keep him here and see what he can do,” Bowness said. “When you do that, he gains experience, you see who he plays well with, who he plays well against and how he handles different situations. His progress has been good.”
- Joel Kiviranta will return to the lineup after serving as a healthy scratch for the last two games
- Andrej Sekera has been skating and improving as he recovers from an infection–Bowness said “It won’t be long before he is cleared to go.”
He Said It
“We don’t want him sitting too long,” Bowness said of Kiviranta returning to the lineup. “The Peterson, Radulov, and Kiviranta line scored some big goals for us on the road trip to Philly and Jersey and we are trying to score more goals. With four games coming up, we are going to need bodies, we are going to need to run four lines a little bit more. When you do that, you hope that fourth line can can contribute something offensively and that line has done that in the past.”