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Now Belanger Is Out Awhile

Times Staff Writer

The Kings added center Eric Belanger to a growing list of players who are out indefinitely.

Belanger returned to Los Angeles on Friday to have an MRI exam on his groin, which he re-injured in Thursday’s overtime loss to Phoenix.

“They’re just being cautious,” Coach Andy Murray said. “We’re calling it a strain.”

But when Belanger will be able to return is an open-ended question. He sat out two games before Christmas because of the groin injury, then returned to play against San Jose on Monday. The Kings already have lost Jeremy Roenick (broken finger), Aaron Miller (back) and Jeff Cowan (groin) in the last two weeks.

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Belanger is one of the Kings’ most versatile players. He has 11 goals, five short of his career high, and is an effective defensive player. He also kills penalties and is useful on the power play.

The Kings are expected to call up center Matt Ryan from minor league Manchester. He would join the team in Dallas today.

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This could be a watershed moment for the Kings, who reach the midway point of the season tonight. Or it can just be another couple of games.

The Kings, who have a one-point lead over Dallas in the Pacific Division, face the Stars tonight and again Monday at Staples Center. Although the Kings sit atop the division, Dallas has played four fewer games.

“You can look at that a couple ways,” King defenseman Mattias Norstrom said. “They have to play those games and they have to win those games. But we’re only halfway through the season. If it was later in the season, it would be something a little more important.”

The Kings do not play in Dallas again this season, having already won two of three games at the American Airlines Center. They will face the Stars four times at Staples Center this season.

Murray, who shies away from attaching importance to single games, remained in character.

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“They’re a playoff team,” he said. “They’re trying to pile up points right now and we are too.”

Win or lose, the Kings, with 50 points, will have the third most points in franchise history after 41 games. They had 58 in 1974-75 and 56 in 1980-81.

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TONIGHT

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at Dallas, 5 PST, FSNW

Site -- American Airlines Center.

Radio -- 710.

Records -- Kings 24-14-2, Stars 24-11-1.

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Record vs. Stars -- 2-1-0.

Update -- The Stars will probably be without defenseman Philippe Boucher (broken finger), but forward Stu Barnes (hip flexor) is expected to play. Stars’ forward Bill Guerin ended a 13-game streak without a goal with his first power play goal of the season against St. Louis on Thursday.... The Kings’ Alexander Frolov has not scored a goal in 16 games but had three quality chances -- hitting the crossbar on one -- against Phoenix on Thursday.


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