The Wild look to even the season series with the Kings, as Minnesota hosts Los Angeles for their final meeting of the season. The teams split at STAPLES Center, but Minnesota wants to avenge a 4-0 loss on Feb. 28 at Xcel Energy Center. Tonight also marks the first day of the 2012 Fan Celebration, as each of Minnesota’s final three home games will be the team’s thank you to fans in the State of Hockey and Wild fans everywhere.
Mikko Koivu scored 15 seconds into overtime to give the Wild a 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Erik Christensen scored with 31 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into the extra frame. Tom Gilbert made two heads up plays to assist on both goals. Kyle Brodziak added his 21st goal of the season in the first period. Niklas Backstrom started for the first time in 13 games, making 25 saves for the win.
Yesterday, the LA Kings picked up a 4-1 win on the road against the Edmonton Oilers. The Kings had a balanced offensive attack as Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist, and Mike Richards, Drew Doughty and Alec all added tallies. Jonathan Quick made 13 saves for the win.
Wild vs. Kings will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North with a start time at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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Tonight, kicks off the Wild’s thank you to fans. All fans in attendance will receive a Wild thermal glass. Fans are also invited to register to win one of three Bobby Smith autographed jerseys. Smith, a former Minnesota North Stars great, will announce “Let’s Play Hockey” before the game. In addition, the Wild will recognize Steve Stinson of Ramsey, Minn., winner of the Minnesota Wild “Collect and Win” Trading Card Sweepstakes, presented by Sony and FOX Sports North.
Only two points separate the top four teams in the Pacific Division. With a win against Edmonton, the Kings jumped into the lead in the Pacific, which means LA holds the third spot in the Western Conference. However, with a Phoenix win teamed with a Dallas or San Jose victory tonight - combined with a Kings loss - LA would drop out of the top eight in the West.
Kyle Brodziak has been on a tear, and his goal against the Panthers pulled him even with Dany Heatley for the Wild’s lead in goals. Brodziak has eight points (4-4=8) during a five-game home point streak and has scored 11 points (5-6=11) in the last 10 games overall. Since March 8, he is T-18th in the NHL in points.
Mikko Koivu returned to the lineup on March 22 after missing 15 games with an upper-body injury and has returned to form. He has three points (2-1=3) in the last two games, including the second overtime-winner of his career against the Panthers on Thursday. Despite missing a third of the season, Koivu ranks third on the Wild with 40 points (12-28=40). If you think Koivu’s impact hasn’t been paramount, the Wild is 24-19-7 with Koivu in the lineup and 8-16-3 when he is not.
Tom Gilbert was brought in as a puck moving defenseman, who also is responsible in the D-zone. On Thursday, Gilbert made two heady plays to set up the game-tying and game-winning goals. As Gilbert has become more comfortable in the Wild’s system, he has been more of a force on the blue line, springing Wild forwards to offense with his pinpoint passing ability.
Backstrom returned from a lower body injury on Thursday and will get his second-straight start for the first time in more than a month. He is 5-5-3 with a 2.37 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and two shutouts in 14 career starts (15 appearances) against the Kings.
“As we continue to grow and as we continue to develop here, he’s going to be a huge part of it.”
-- Mike Yeo on Gilbert’s two plays that set up goals against the Panthers
D Willie Mitchell skated in 288 games with Minnesota in parts of five seasons (2000-06).
The Wild’s power play has gone 5-for-19 (26.3 percent) in the last seven games and ranks fifth in the NHL since March 17. The Wild has scored five power-play goals in the last five home games, going 5-for-15 (33.3 percent) to tie for the league lead in home power play percentage in that span.