Kings-Wild Preview

Despite finishing short of their aspirations last season, the
Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild added little to their
respective rosters.

Instead, they’re hoping their stalwarts can carry them further
this year.

Coming off their most successful two-year run in franchise
history, Los Angeles plays at Minnesota on Thursday night in an
opener for both clubs.

The Kings made their second consecutive trip to the Western
Conference finals after earning the fifth seed with a 27-16-5
record. General manager Dean Lombardi made few alterations to his
roster, instead maintaining most of the core from the 2012 Stanley
Cup squad.

Despite still being relatively freshly removed from that run,
the Kings don’t appear to be lacking in terms of motivation.

“Doing what we did in 2012 showed not only the players, but the
staff and management, what it actually means and how special it is
to win it,” captain Dustin Brown, who signed an eight-year
extension in the offseason, told the team’s official website. “So
the next year when you don’t win it, you feel like you’ve lost a
lot more than you did.”

While the Wild made waves last year with their big-money
signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, injuries played a key role
in a season that was ultimately a disappointment. Minnesota claimed
the West’s final playoff spot with a 26-19-3 record and was
eliminated in the first round by Chicago in five games.

The Wild sought to add some firepower with their deadline
acquisition of Jason Pominville from Buffalo, but his impact was
limited as he dealt with a concussion. Minnesota, though, moved to
lock up the right wing with a five-year extension announced
Thursday.

Right winger Dany Heatley also missed the final 12
regular-season games and the entire playoff series after suffering
a torn labrum the same day Minnesota traded for Pominville.

The Wild managed just 5 goals on 42 power-play chances (11.9
percent) in those 17 games without Heatley compared to a 17.5
percent success rate previously.

A strong bounce-back campaign for Heatley after offseason
surgery would be a huge boost for Minnesota.

“With a big body like Dany’s, especially the closer you get to
the net, and his touch along there, he can score a lot of goals
like he showed in the past,” said captain Mikko Koivu, whose 37
points were second-most on the team. “We sure missed him last year
at the end so of course he’s a big help for us when he’s
healthy.”

Los Angeles wasn’t able to retain all of its key players, losing
left wing Dustin Penner to Anaheim and defenseman Rob Scuderi, who
led the club with 66 blocked shots, to Pittsburgh. The Kings hope
Matt Frattin – whom they acquired from Toronto along with Ben
Scrivens to back up Jonathan Quick in net in exchange for Jonathan
Bernier – can fill in for Penner.

Los Angeles will likely need center Anze Kopitar to regain his
form. He was held without a goal in the club’s final 16
regular-season contests and recorded a minus-2 rating in 18 playoff
games.

The Wild could be a good opponent for Kopitar to get back on
track against as he has 15 points over the last 11 meetings, though
he didn’t record one in the teams’ most recent matchup, a 2-1 Wild
win in St. Paul on April 23.

The Wild have never lost a home opener in Minnesota, going
10-0-0 with one tie. They were the designated home team in a 2010
loss to Carolina in Finland.