Los Angeles Kings coach Todd McLellan won’t dare concede that his team will have an advantage against the visiting Dallas Stars on Thursday night, even though he will be coaching a much more rested team.
The Kings had four days between games after losing 5-2 to the visiting New Jersey Devils on Saturday. They took the first two days off and practiced the next two.
The Stars, on the other hand, will be playing for the second straight night and the third time in four days.
“Dallas is going to play three games in four nights, and sometimes that team that’s coming in and playing back-to-back, they’re ready to play,” McLellan said. “They haven’t even forgotten what it was like to play and we’re trying to remember. That will be a challenge for us at the start.”
The Stars opened their three-game road trip with a 4-0 win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, but then they blew a 3-0 lead against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday and lost 5-3.
“Anybody can beat anybody,” Dallas coach Peter DeBoer said before his return to San Jose, where he coached from 2015-16 to 2019-20.
Both teams should have a clear memory from the last time they met.
Dallas was riding a season-high, four-game winning streak when it traveled to Los Angeles on Jan. 3 and lost 3-2.
The win for the Kings came in the midst of a difficult two-week stretch of games in which they beat the Golden Knights twice and also defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche and the Edmonton Oilers.
The Kings were without forwards Trevor Moore (upper body) and Arthur Kaliyev (lower body) when they played Dallas earlier this month, and those two remain out.
Los Angeles also lost right winger Carl Grundstrom to an undisclosed injury during practice on Tuesday, and he is expected to be out through the All-Star break in early February.
Kings forward Gabriel Vilardi is also ailing with an undisclosed injury and his status is listed as day-to-day.
The Kings will likely recall a forward or two from the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League, even if Vilardi is deemed ready to play. Reinforcements are needed with Los Angeles set to embark on a six-game road trip following the Thursday contest.
“We’ve been running thin, as you saw (Wednesday), we practiced quite thin,” McLellan said. “We want players to be playing at this time of the year. The Reign team is playing really well and guys are getting reps there, but we can’t afford to go to the Eastern Seaboard with what we have. There will be more bodies coming.”
The Stars continue to be without forward Roope Hintz, who has missed the past five games because of an upper-body injury. Hintz is second on the team in goals (19) and tied for second in points (44).
Fredrik Olofsson has replaced Hintz in the lineup on Wednesday, and he recorded an assist against the Sharks.
Jason Robertson hasn’t slowed down for Dallas, scoring his 30th goal of the season in the loss to San Jose. Robertson is the fastest Stars player to reach that mark since the club relocated to Dallas. Mike Modano held the previous record, getting to 30 goals in his 48th game of the 1993-94 campaign.
Scott Wedgewood is expected to start in goal for Dallas on Thursday after Jake Oettinger started the first two games of the road trip. Wedgewood is 2-2-0 in four career starts against the Kings with a 3.26 goals-against average and an .898 save percentage.
–Field Level Media