|New-look Kings host struggling Stars|
LOS ANGELES -- When the Dallas Stars meet the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night at Staples Center, they will be facing a different team than the one that defeated them in their lone matchup this season.
Over the last eight days, Los Angeles general manager Rob Blake has made significant changes to his roster for the stretch run for a postseason berth.
Los Angeles (33-22-5) will welcome winger Tobias Rieder and goaltender Scott Wedgewood to the lineup after Blake executed a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday afternoon. Backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper was shipped to Arizona for the pair in a deal that saw the Coyotes retain 15 percent of Rieder's $2.25 million salary. Wedgewood and Rieder will be restricted free agents at season's end and the Kings will retain their rights.
"We continue to look for opportunities to improve our team speed and Tobias will bring that dynamic to our club," Blake said.
Last week, the Kings added defenseman Dion Phaneuf and center Nate Thompson from the Ottawa Senators to stabilize their defense and depth forward positions. Los Angeles also announced Wednesday that center Jeff Carter, who has missed all but six games this season because of ankle tendon surgery, has been medically cleared to rejoin the team. He is not expected to face the Stars and will likely return Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers.
On the ice, the Kings enter the game with a three-game winning streak that closed a successful seven-game road trip (4-3-0). Alec Martinez registered a goal and an assist and Kuemper made 30 saves in their 4-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
Los Angeles defeated Dallas 3-0 on Jan. 30, getting three goals from their defensive corps in Drew Doughty, Paul LaDue and Martinez.
The Dallas game is the start of a heavy-laden home schedule for the Kings as 15 of their last 22 games will be played at Staples Center. Los Angeles will influence the other Western Conference playoff race as Thursday's game is the first of nine against Central Division opposition.
The Stars (34-22-4) suffered a frustrating 2-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night, their third setback in their last four games after a five-game winning streak.
Despite dominating play throughout, all 41 shots they registered were turned away by Anaheim goaltender Ryan Miller. The Stars fired 24 shots at Miller in the third period and failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 man advantage for 1:55 in being shut out for the second time in their last four games.
The Dallas special teams play was a major factor, going 0-for-4 with the man advantage and surrendering a short-handed goal to Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf that sealed the loss. Goaltender Ben Bishop stopped 15 shots.
"I think we did a lot of good things tonight, but just couldn't win the special teams," Bishop said. "They won the special teams battle tonight and obviously that was the result of the game. The good thing is, we have a game tomorrow so we can put this behind us."
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock concurred with Bishop, pointing at the special teams' failure at the key to the loss. While he was pleased with the overall effectiveness on the penalty kill, the lack of productivity with the man advantage could be improved with a more direct approach to the opposing net.
"The power play goal that we got scored on, that's a hard one because the rebound was right on the guy's stick. I thought the rest of the time we did a great job killing penalties," Hitchcock said. "We hit three goal posts. I think the one thing we wanted on the slap shots, we weren't on top of the goalie. We were off to the side waiting for rebounds. So Miller got to see even though they full slap shots from the top of the circle."