Stars, Kings clash in a matchup of hot teams

The Los Angeles Kings will reach the halfway point of their regular season when they host the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.

The first 40 games have gone better than many expected, but Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan believes there’s plenty of room for improvement.

“We’re still putting things in place and we’re trying to keep our game growing,” he said. “If there’s a horse in front of us right now, so be it. We’ve got to make sure that ours is in good shape and ready to run.”

The Kings were on a 6-0-1 run before losing 4-2 to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

Los Angeles has allowed at least one power-play goal in the past 10 games and is ranked 28th of 32 teams on the penalty kill, but McLellan believes the unit is improving, especially from the first quarter of the season.

“The group play and the reads, the reactions are there, we’ve got to get the job done, though,” he said. “We seem to give up one a night, in various ways still, so the number is not looking good. … Yet the penalty kill is improving. You might think that I’m insane, but that’s how we see it.”

Dallas has won a season-high four in a row to stay atop the Central Division standings.

The Stars are 8-for-17 on the power play during their winning streak, moving them into second in the NHL in efficiency (28.8 percent).

Dallas defenseman Miro Heiskanen said the Stars have been working hard on the power play, moving the puck quickly and getting shots through to the net.

“Playing pretty simple, not trying to do too much,” he said. “Just play it simple and work hard. You have to make clean passes, that’s the key.”

Jason Robertson continues to pace the Stars offensively.

He has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) during a seven-game point streak.

Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, is three games into his second stint with the Kings this season. He played eight games in October with Los Angeles before he was loaned to the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League.

He’s still looking for his first goal of the season after getting moved up to the top line with Anze Kopitar for the final period of a 5-4 shootout win against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday. He played the entire game with Kopitar on Saturday.

“Q is very dynamic, obviously a big body and he can definitely make plays,” Kopitar said. “This has been, what, four periods that we’ve been together, and I’m sure we’re going to stick for a few more games. Hopefully, we can find some chemistry and score a few goals.”

The Kings won’t have the services of forwards Trevor Moore or Arthur Kaliyev, however.

Moore sustained an undisclosed injury in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 23, which prompted the Kings to recall Byfield, and Kaliyev has been out with a lower-body injury since blocking a shot in a 4-1 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 20.

“Those are two players that we won’t have for a little while,” McLellan said.

Both players have scored 19 points this season.

–Field Level Media