Kings-Wild Preview

Though the Minnesota Wild’s winning streak finally came to an
end on the road, they remain one of the league’s best teams at home
this season – particularly of late.

But fresh off two big road wins against West contenders this
week, the Los Angeles Kings likely won’t be fazed when they enter
the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.

The Wild (20-11-2) had won seven in a row before a 5-3 loss at
Dallas on Friday, but they’ll be happy to return to St. Paul, where
they’ve won seven of eight and are 12-3-1 on the season.

Friday’s loss against the Stars was only four days removed from
a 7-4 victory in the same building. The Wild claimed a 4-3 overtime
win over Phoenix on Wednesday, while Dallas played no games in
between the two meetings.

“Let’s be honest here, that was a team that sat here and
practiced and got ready for us,” coach Mike Yeo said. “We knew we
were going to face their best game tonight. For many parts of the
game, we were doing a lot of good things and we gave ourselves a
chance. But in the end, we didn’t get ‘er done.”

The Kings (19-12-2) trail Minnesota by two points for fourth
place in the West and are coming off road wins against St. Louis
and Chicago.

Eleven players tallied a point in Thursday’s 4-2 win against the
Blues, continuing a theme of offensive balance Los Angeles has
shown all year. Six players have recorded at least 21 points, while
eight more have at least 10.

“I think it was pretty well distributed through our lineup,”
coach Darryl Sutter said.

The Kings are also proving to be much more potent offensively
after finishing second-worst in the league last season with an
average of 2.3 goals per game.

Despite a slow start this year in which they went 3-5-2 while
averaging 2.2 goals, they rank near the top of the league scoring
2.9 goals per contest for the year. It hasn’t always been
esthetically pleasing, such as Mike Richards’ go-ahead goal in
Thursday’s victory that saw him jam a soft rebound into the net
with less than three minutes to go.

“Before we were trying to make too many pretty plays,” Richards
said. “When you do that, you don’t score as many goals if you just
keep it simple and throw it to the net.”

Anze Kopitar enters with 22 points over his last 19 games,
pushing his team-leading season total to 31. Kopitar also has nine
points over his last five contests against Minnesota, while Dustin
Brown has notched five points in the last two versus the Wild.

Despite their winning streak ending, a number of individual runs
are still going for Minnesota. Matt Cullen has 11 points over his
last 10 games while Mikko Koivu has nine during a six-game
streak.

The Wild will hope for a better performance in net after calling
up Matt Hackett to start Friday’s game, giving Niklas Backstrom a
night off after he made 12 consecutive starts. Hackett allowed five
goals on 33 shots.

The teams split four meetings last year, each claiming a win at
home and on the road.