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Stars, Kings meet for Pacific battle in LA

The Dallas Stars have managed to remain relevant in the Pacific Division despite their recent struggles and look to regroup tonight against the rival Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.

Dallas opened a season-long five-game road trip with a 5-2 loss at San Jose on Thursday and received little help from goaltender Andrew Raycroft, who allowed five goals on 25 shots before being pulled for Richard Bachman. Bachman turned aside 11 shots in relief for the Stars, losers in two straight, four of six and nine of their last 13 games (4-8-1).

Mike Ribeiro scored and Brenden Morrow returned to the lineup, notching a goal and an assist for Dallas. Morrow had missed the past six games after suffering an upper-body injury against Edmonton on November 21.

"I wish we could have mustered a little bit more in the third, but they were a hungry team tonight and we have to be better than that if we want to win on the road," said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan.

Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski was back in the lineup after an 11-game absence with a broken thumb. The Stars will also visit the Rangers, Islanders and Devils on the current road swing and are 6-7-0 away from Big D this season. They are tied with the Sharks for second place in the Pacific with 31 points -- two points behind front-running Phoenix.

Raycroft was making his fourth straight start in place of the injured Kari Lehtonen (groin) and is expected to be in the crease Saturday. Defenseman Mark Fistric served the first game of a three-game suspension handed down by the league for a hit on Nino Niederreiter of the Isles last weekend. Trevor Daley hit the ice against San Jose after missing the previous three games (upper body).

Los Angeles is also hanging on in the Pacific Division even though it has dropped three straight and five of its last seven games. The Kings opened a brief two-game homestand with a 4-2 loss versus Minnesota on Thursday.

Dustin Penner and Trent Hunter had a goal apiece and Jack Johnson dished out two assists in a losing effort. Jonathan Quick allowed four goals on 24 shots in net for the Kings, who are 8-8-1 at home and three points behind the Coyotes for third place in the division.

Quick is 2-3-1 in his last five games and allowed a first-period goal to Wild star Mikko Koivu less than a minute into the game that head coach Terry Murray wasn't too fond of.

"It's a killer," Murray said of the goal. "You can't give up a goal on the first shift like we did. When they get a lead, they're going to protect it."

The Kings outshot the Wild, 44-24, and have lost three straight games in regulation for the first time since January 17-20 last season. They are averaging an NHL-low 2.3 goals per game this season. Hunter's goal was his first with the Kings and his 100th in the NHL.

Los Angeles will honor former great Bernie Nicholls before tonight's game. Nicholls recorded a franchise single-season record 70 goals in the 1988-89 campaign for the Kings, who will open a four-game road trip Tuesday against Boston, Columbus, Detroit and Toronto.

Dallas and Los Angeles will play the fourth of six matchups between the teams tonight and the Kings have a 2-0-1 mark so far this season. The Kings have won four of five and 11 of the past 15 meetings in this series, while Dallas has lost two straight, three of four and 10 of its last 14 trips to LA.

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