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.