GAMEDAY: Wild at Kings
Minnesota Wild (8-4-3: 19 points, 5th in Western Conference, 2nd in Northwest Division) at Los Angeles Kings (7-6-3: 17 points, 9th in Western Conference, 4th in Pacific Division)
Tonight’s matchup against the Kings is the Wild’s third game of a five-game road swing. So far, Minnesota is 1-1-0 on the trip and look to right the ship after being tripped up to the Sharks Thursday night, breaking the team’s five-game win streak. Last season, Minnesota went 2-1-1 against Los Angeles and three of the four games were decided after regulation, and it looks like the two teams’ styles matchup closely again.
On the season - after both teams obtained some off-season firepower - the two squads haven’t hit their strides offensively and are looking for more consistent scoring. However, the Wild are fighting for first place in the Northwest division and the Kings are above .500, both thanks to some excellent play in goal. The Wild are paced by the two-headed puck-gobbling monster of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding, and the Kings are staying afloat thanks to Jonathan Quick’s .934 SV%, 1.96 GAA and three shutouts.
Against the Sharks Thursday, the Wild’s lone goal scorer was Kyle Brodziak, while Backstrom turned away 33 shots. The Wild couldn’t overcome a three-goal second period outburst, led by Patrick Marlow’s two power play goals. Marlow’s tally broke a 24-straight penalty kill effort by the Wild. Big loss for the Wild as Guillaume Latendresse didn’t finish the game after Sharks defenseman Doug Murray checked him into the boards. Latendresse has been diagnosed with a concussion and will miss tonight’s game.
The Kings played Vancouver on Thursday night, and like the Wild, were unable to comeback from a three-goal period. Vancouver led 3-0 at the end of the first period, scoring two power play goals. The Kings’ Drew Doughty scored a second-period goal, and made it interesting on Mike Richard’s late goal in the third. The Kings have failed to score three or more regulation goals in 13 of 16 games this season.
Wild at Kings will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 9:30 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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Starting today, as a part of Movember, the Kings will be selling special, fun moustaches at the Team LA store at STAPLES Center with portions of the proceeds going to support Movember charities.
The Kings are led by Quick in net, and rely heavily on scoring from All-Star center Anze Kopitar, who leads the team with 20 points. The Kings also added center Mike Richards from Philadelphia in the off-season, giving the team one of the NHL’s most dangerous one-two punches in the middle. Early season holdout Drew Doughty is one of the league’s elite young defensemen and has produced seven points in 11 contests since signing a lucrative $56 million contract.
The Wild's goaltending duo is arguably the biggest reason the team is one point out of first place in the Northwest Division. After sitting out four-straight games, Niklas Backstrom
shut out the Flames and followed the win up with a 33 save performance against the Sharks. During Backstrom’s four-game hiatus, Josh Harding
was so good he earned the NHL’s First Star of the week ending Nov. 6. During the stretch, he won all four games and allowed only three goals. Harding’s season line is 4-0-1 with a 1.18 GAA, a .965 SV% and one shutout.
How will the Wild respond to a loss after rattling off five straight wins? One thing that will help the team: Staying out of the box. Through two games on the road trip, the Wild has given its opponents 13 power play opportunities. The PK iced the Flames killing all seven chances, but the Sharks bit the Wild going 2-5 on the man advantage. After a sluggish start, Minnesota's penalty kill has been stellar and has climbed to 82.5 percent on the year. The Kings’ power play is gunning at 20.6 percent, good for eight in the NHL.
(concussion) didn’t finish the game against the Sharks and will not play against the Kings. Prior to Thursday, the big winger had a three-game goal streak playing with Heatley and Koivu on the top line. The Heatley and Koivu duo skated with a few different wingers, including Nick Johnson
, who has played well on the road trip. With Latendresse out, expect to see some line shifting until Yeo sees some combinations he likes. Warren Peters
, called-up from Houston for the road trip, will likely center the fourth line.
Expect to see some shuffling, but this is what the Wild forward lines might look like to start:
’s availability is still unknown so the D-pairings are likely to remain the same:
With back-to-back games tonight and tomorrow, it looks like Harding will get the nod tonight. As stated earlier, the NHL’s reigning ‘First Star’ brings a four-game win streak into tonight’s game. Harding is 2-2-0 with a 2.36 GAA and a .917 SV% in five games (three starts) against the Kings.
With 20 healthy skaters, no scratches for tonight.
Latendresse (concussion) is out indefinitely. Mike Lundin
(back) made the trip but didn’t skate with the team yesterday. Greg Zanon
(groin) is out. Clayton Stoner
(finger) has missed the last six games and is unlikely to play tonight.
“It’s about how we respond from this game and how we come back. Maybe it’s a good thing for us. It’s a reminder that we’re not close to where we need to be yet.”
- Mike Yeo about the Wild responding after losing to San Jose
D Willie Mitchell skated in 288 games with Minnesota in parts of five seasons (2000-06). D Jack Johnson went to Shattuck-St. Mary’s in 2002-03.
The Wild is 8-0-0 when not allowing a PPG and 0-4-3 when allowing one or more.