Less than two months into the season, the Dallas Stars believe they are entering a critical portion of their schedule.
Dallas hopes to start a four-game road trip with a win when it faces the Los Angeles Kings for the second time in five days.
The Stars will face all four Pacific Division opponents on this trip before returning home to play Chicago on Dec. 12. Dallas, 1-5-1 in its last seven on the road, plays only six games against its own division after this trip before the All-Star break in February.
“It’s a critical week for us,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “We’ve come off a pretty good stretch where we’ve played well as a team. Our top players played well, our goaltending was solid, and that has to continue. It’s going to be a very intense week.”
A string of five consecutive games against Pacific Division foes actually started Sunday with a 2-1 home loss to the Kings. Sergei Zubov scored a power-play goal in the second period for Dallas, which had a season-high three-game win streak snapped.
Stars captain Mike Modano took a stick in the face from Kings left wing Alexander Frolov early in the second period and missed the rest of the game. Modano, who sustained a nose laceration and an eye contusion, was held out as a precaution but is expected to play in the rematch.
While Modano should be available, center Jason Arnott did not practice Tuesday due to a groin injury and may not play Thursday.
Although he was held without a point on Sunday, Stars right wing Bill Guerin has six goals and 11 points in his last 10 games. He is third in the NHL with 15 goals.
Los Angeles failed to win its third straight game Wednesday, losing 4-1 at St. Louis.
Roman Cechmanek was pulled midway through the second period after allowing three goals on nine shots. In his two previous starts, Cechmanek had surrendered one goal in each—both wins.
“We tried to change the momentum in the game and that save percentage doesn’t get it done for you,” Kings coach Andy Murray said.
Murray said he plans to start Cechmanek on Thursday.
“It was a frustrating game,” Cechmanek said. “But it is over now. Now I am focusing on the next game.”
Wednesday marked the Kings debut of forward Martin Straka, acquired Sunday from Pittsburgh for two minor leaguers. Straka was held without a goal for the 14th straight game while Luc Robitaille’s goalless drought reached eight games.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 2): Stars - 25 points, 3rd place (tied), 1 PB, Pacific Division. Kings - 26 points, 1st place (tied), Pacific Division.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 2): Stars - Power play: 19.8 percent (20 for 101), 8th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.8 percent (78 for 92), 10th. Kings - Power play: 14.6 percent (18 for 123), 21st. Penalty killing: 76.9 percent (80 for 104), 29th.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 30; Kings, 2-1. At Dallas, defenseman Jaroslav Modry snapped a tie late in the second period and Cechmanek stopped 18 shots to lead Los Angeles.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Stars - 3-7-1-0 on the road; Kings - 5-6-1-0 at home.