The Minnesota Wild opens up a season-long five-game homestand tonight. That’s 10 points on the line for a team that has never had excessive difficulty in accumulating wins at Xcel Energy Center. But this five-game stretch features last year’s Stanley Cup champion, last year’s President’s Trophy winner, last year’s Western Conference finalist. And then there’s tonight’s opponent, the Los Angeles Kings, who many feel could have the talent to emerge from the West this season.
The Wild returns home after splitting a pair of back-to-back road games last week. On Friday, the Wild were taken down by the Vancouver Canucks, 5-1. Antti Miettinen tallied the lone Wild goal while Jose Theodore stopped 30 of 35 shots while losing his Wild debut.
On Saturday, the Kings moved to 5-2-0 with a 6-4 triumph over the Colorado Avalanche in Denver. Brad Richardson posted his first career hat trick, including a shorthanded game-winner in the third.
Wild vs. Kings will be broadcast nationally in high definition on Versus at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on 830 WCCO AM, or online at Wild.com.
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Good seats remain for tonight’s game, starting at $22 seats in the upper level.
The second installment of Year Ten All-Time Team Bobbleheads is already here. The first 5,000 fans through the gates will receive a Niklas Backstrom statue. Because goaltenders have their rituals on game days, we ask that you not bother mini-Backstrom until after tonight’s game.
Now that the Kings have playoff experience and another year under the belts of young stars, there doesn’t appear to weakness in the lineup. There’s a super-skilled sniper in Anze Kopitar. A confident young leader in Dustin Brown. Excellent depth as evidenced by the second line of Ryan Smyth, Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll. A two-way stud in Wayne Simmonds, and probably the best young defenseman in the League in Drew Doughty. The only question mark appears to be in goal, but Jonathan Quick only seems to get better. In his five games this year, Quick is 4-1-0 and has stopped 130 of 140 shots faced.
Nobody in a white uniform looked particularly stellar in Friday’s loss to the dominant Canucks. But Guillaume Latendresse did keep his point streak in tact with an assist in Miettinen’s third period tally. Latendresse was known last year for burying his chances, but this year he’s shown a playmaker’s touch. On all three goals he’s assisted on during his current streak, he’s notched the first assist.
The Wild owns the best power play in the NHL through seven games, but the Kings have given up just four power play goals this season, and one was an empty netter.
Just looking at the Wild roster before the season began; it was a near certainty that the Wild was going to have to use at least one rookie defenseman. Names like Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser and Tyler Cuma were often mentioned, but everyone seemed to ignore the possibility of Justin Falk cracking the lineup. Not only did he make the team, he’s played every game this year and he’s established himself was an exceptional shutdown defender. Falk is a +1 through seven games, making him the only Minnesota defenseman with a positive number in that category.
The only question mark appears to be Chuck Kobasew, who is dealing with a minor groin injury. If he can’t go, Colton Gillies likely takes his place:
Cam Barker is out tonight with a groin injury, meaning Clayton Stoner plays his first game of the year at Xcel Energy Center:
After getting his first night off of the season on Friday, Niklas Backstrom returns to the blue paint.
Gillies will be the only healthy scratch.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) is out, although he’s taken another step in his recovery after getting the green light to take contact. Kobasew (groin) is probable, while Barker (groin) is out.
“I would characterize these as elite teams in the league. Where do we stand? Of the three wins we’ve gotten, two have been against Edmonton. It will be interesting to see how we fare in these games.”
-- Todd Richards to the Minneapolis Star Tribune on gauging where his team is at after five home games against top teams in the League.
D Willie Mitchell was a fan favorite during his five seasons with Minnesota. D Jack Johnson is a product of the Shattuck St. Mary’s program in Faribault, Minnesota. D Davis Drewiske is a native of nearby Hudson, Wisconsin.
Eight different Wild players have scored on the power play this season. There are 23 teams that have yet to score eight total power play goals this season.