Reeling Kings vie for first win vs. Stars

FRISCO, Texas — Two teams on the opposite end of the Western Conference standings meet at American Airlines Center on Thursday evening as the Los Angeles Kings visit the Dallas Stars.

Currently one of five winless teams in the NHL, Los Angeles (0-3-0) dropped a 6-3 decision at the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday.

The Kings have scored just six goals, tying them for second-fewest in the league through three games.

Veteran center Anze Kopitar has a good idea why Los Angeles has yet to crack the win column.

“Obviously, we have to check better, and everything that they (the opposition) get, it's mostly off our mistakes, and we can't afford that,” Kopitar said after the loss in Minnesota. “Teams are good, if you do (make) mistakes, they're going to punish you for that.”

Dallas (2-1-0) returns home after splitting a two-game road trip. The Stars dropped their first road game of the season, 6-5 at Colorado on Saturday, before edging Nashville 2-1 at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday.

Through three games, the Stars have two players tied for the team lead in goals with two apiece. Perennial NHL All-Star center Tyler Seguin is no surprise but he's accompanied by veteran forward Adam Cracknell, who has gotten an opportunity to play because fellow veteran Ales Hemsky has been sidelined with a groin injury.

“My play is the result of our guys playing well,” Cracknell told the Stars' official website after practice on Wednesday. “We're all playing as a unit. I think we're buying into the system right now. We're getting rewarded, which is nice.”

Stars coach Lindy Ruff said on Wednesday that Hemsky, who has been skating, will not play Thursday and neither will fellow forward Jiri Hudler (flu). Ruff said Hudler's illness is so severe right now that the Stars want him to stay away from the team facility to avoid infecting any of his teammates until his condition improves.

Johnny Oduya also missed practice on Wednesday, but Ruff said the veteran defenseman's absence was due to a maintenance day.

After starting the season last week with a 4-2 win against Anaheim, Dallas will be playing its second home game of the season on Thursday.

And even though the Stars are coming off their most complete game of the season Tuesday in Music City, Ruff still wants to see more.

“We've still got work to do,” Ruff said. “We got to clean up our special teams. Our power play's got to become quicker. Our 5-on-5 play became a lot quicker, now our power play's got to become quicker.”

One reason why the Kings have struggled to start the season is because they have been without top goaltender Jonathan Quick, a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the 2012 playoffs. Quick sustained a lower-body injury in the first period of their season opener last Wednesday.

Quick is expected to miss between three and four months, leaving goaltending duties to be divided between Jeff Zatkoff and veteran Peter Budaj. The latter was recently recalled from the minors to serve as Zatkoff's backup.

Zatkoff is 0-3-0 with a 4.37 goals-against-average and an .839 save percentage, numbers which are a far cry from those posted by Quick.

But Kings coach Darryl Sutter knows his goaltending situation is out of his hands and all he can do is hope for the best.

“There's nothing you can do about it. There's not one thing,” Sutter said after the loss in Minnesota. “I said it when Jonathan got hurt. There's not one thing that I can do about it or anybody can do about it, right? You expect the guys that are in there to play as well as they can, and if they play as well as they can, that's good.”