By Dan Pieringer
Los Angeles (30-33-10) at Dallas (33-32-8) 8:30 p.m. EDT
DALLAS (AP) -- There are still several playoff spots up for
grabs in the wide-open Western Conference. The Dallas Stars and
Los Angeles Kings, however, aren't getting any closer to
The Stars look to snap a four-game losing streak Thursday night
when they host the Pacific Division rival Kings, losers of three
Dallas (33-32-8) appeared to be in good shape for its sixth
consecutive postseason berth after going 9-3-0 in its first 12
games after the All-Star break. Since that hot streak, however,
the Stars have gone 4-11-1 to fall into 12th place in the West.
They've been outscored 16-7 during their four-game slide, which
continued with a 5-2 home defeat to Vancouver on Tuesday night.
Dallas is one loss shy of matching its season-high skid, set
from February 21-March 1.
"It's disappointing," said forward Brendan Morrison, who scored
his third goal in three games. "We have nine games to go and who
knows what can happen. We have to approach the next game like
it's the last game of the year."
Sixth-year forward Steve Ott, who has never missed the playoffs
in his career spent entirely with Dallas, hopes the Stars can
start playing with more urgency down the stretch.
"You hate to even think of yourselves out of a playoff spot and
right now we're out of a playoff spot," Ott told the team's
official Web site. "The reality is we have to win games and
collect points to make a playoff push. We have nine games left
and we're going to have to start Thursday night and start
getting points. If not, we're going to be dreaming about this
and having a hell of a long summer."
Los Angeles (30-33-10) appears to be on the way to its sixth
consecutive long summer after following a 4-2-1 stretch with
three straight losses. The 13th-place Kings, four points behind
the Stars, have been outscored 10-2 during the losing streak but
haven't given up on contending for a playoff spot.
"We are in the playoff hunt," forward Michal Handzus told the
Kings' official Web site after a 2-0 loss at St. Louis on
Tuesday night. "Obviously, we are farther away than we wanted to
be, but we still want to win some games."
Playoff-bound or not, the Kings consider the stretch run a
significant part of their rebuilding process.
"They're huge and important games for us as a team," captain
Dustin Brown said. "From a growth standpoint, these are playoff
atmosphere games, playoff teams that are fighting for playoff
spots. We want to be in the playoffs this year or any year to
come after. These are games we're going to have to learn how to
Los Angeles and Dallas have played each other closely this
season, going to two shootouts and one overtime in the first
four meetings. The Kings have gone 3-0-1 in the series, while
the Stars are 1-1-2.
They meet for the final time Tuesday night in Los Angeles.