Kings look to rebound against Central-leading Dallas

In their first test of 2023, the Kings will confront the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars on Tuesday in a matchup that will bring home a shining scorer from the Golden State and an old rival from a California feud as well.

Dallas winger Jason Robertson was born in Arcadia and his family, which also included Toronto Maple Leafs winger Nick Robertson, were Kings season ticket holders until their move to Michigan when Jason was 10. The local boy has made good, trailing only Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in the Art Ross Trophy race while placing fifth in the NHL in goals this season.

He skates opposite Joe Pavelski, the longtime San Jose Shark who has continued to thrive in Dallas –– he has averaged nearly a point-per-game this year –– while his former teammates have toiled in obscurity since his departure. Pavelski, Robertson and linemate Roope Hintz have supported one of the league’s top goalies this season, Jake Oettinger, who was named one of the three stars of the week by The Hockey News. Oettinger posted a spotless 3-0-0 record with a 1.67 goals-against average and .940 save percentage, all of which powered the Stars’ current four-game winning streak.

Dallas will be the latest in a series of tough opponents for the Kings, who beat the West’s other division leader and the defending Stanley Cup champions before stumbling against the lowly Philadelphia Flyers Saturday. The Kings were without wingers Trevor Moore and Arthur Kaliyev again, neither of whom is expected to be in the lineup against Dallas on Tuesday.

“I don’t think we let down,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “We didn’t have a lot of energy for whatever reason, and we weren’t real polished.”

Kings captain Anze Kopitar emphasized that for any lethargy or lack of connectedness, the Kings were still very much in the match against Philly.

Yet they’ll need a sharper effort against an experienced, cohesive and structured Dallas club that excels on special teams. It has allowed the sixth fewest goals per game in the NHL this season, its penalty kills rank fourth and its power-play has been the league’s second most efficient.

On paper, that sounds like a difficult matchup for the Kings, who are tied for the fourth worst penalty kill mark. Since Nov. 1, their power play has edged into the top 10 league-wide, and in recent days their penalty kill has come up big in key moments consistently. Yet over their past 10 games, they’ve been touched up for 13 power-play goals and two shorthanded tallies, losing the special teams scoring battle 15-7 aggregately in the process. The worst performances were early in that span, however, and there’s been a clear confidence boost to the PK even as it seems to find a way to give up a goal each game.

“The group play and the reads and the reacts are there, we’ve got to get the job done though,” McLellan said. “We seem to give up one a night in various ways still, so the number’s not looking good, we’re giving up one a night, yet the penalty kill has improved. You may think that I’m insane, but that’s how we see it.”

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After Saturday’s disappointment, McLellan mentioned specifically two other such regrettable outings: a 6-0 loss to Buffalo that was the second in that stretch of 10 games and the Kings’ first meeting with Dallas back on Nov. 1, which were both lopsided losses in which the Kings ceded a trio of man-advantage markers. McLellan said his group was none the worse for wear after Saturday, when instead of closing the gap with first-place Vegas they fell to a bottom-feeding squad, and indicated once again that the team’s resolve remained strong.

“I’ve lived through this in a couple other spots. You make the playoffs and everybody expects it to be smooth and comfortable and better every night,” said McLellan, likely referring to his tenures in San Jose and Edmonton. “There’s 31 other teams that want to get in the way, and there’s some damn good teams that get in the way, and there’s nights where you don’t quite have it. But there’s not any panic in our organization.”


When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Where: Arena

TV/Radio: ESPN+ and Hulu/iHeart Radio (English) and Tu Liga 1330 (Spanish)

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