A revitalized Vincent Lecavalier is certainly doing his part to protect the Los Angeles Kings’ healthy lead atop the Pacific Division.
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The veteran center aims for a fourth consecutive game with a goal as the Kings attempt to deal the reeling Minnesota Wild a sixth straight loss Thursday night.
Reduced to being a predominately healthy scratch in Philadelphia, Lecavalier has flourished as a second-line center since being acquired by the Kings on Jan. 6. The 35-year-old extended his longest goal streak since the 2012-13 season with a power-play score that helped Los Angeles improve to 4-1-1 since his arrival with Tuesday’s 3-2 win over Dallas.
"You can tell he’s having fun again," said Milan Lucic, who broke a 2-all tie in the third period to lengthen his point streak to five games. "The coaches have put him in position to succeed, and that’s something he’s earned. He’s playing with some great players and making the most of his time on the power play."
Lecavalier’s three goals – all of which have come in man-advantage situations – are two more than he totaled over the final 42 games of his failed two-year stint with the Flyers. They’re also two more than what Minnesota (22-16-8) has produced over the last three defeats of its latest January swoon.
After being shut out by Winnipeg and Nashville on back-to-back nights, the Wild got an early goal from ex-King Jarret Stoll but couldn’t hold on in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to Anaheim.
All five losses have come in regulation, and the Wild are one away from matching their longest skid since Jan. 3-13, 2015.
Minnesota has scored just four goals during the slide and none on the power play in a club-record 11 straight, going 0 of 24 over the drought.
"I feel like we had some good stuff around the net and some good possession in the zone, but you leave the night with zeros and you lose the game 3-1," Zach Parise told the NHL’s official website. "It’s our responsibility to score some goals."
A breakout doesn’t appear particularly likely, as the Kings rank second in the NHL with 2.20 goals allowed per game and have held the Wild to one goal or less in each victory of a 3-1-0 series stretch. That includes a 2-1 win at Staples Center on Oct. 16 on Anze Kopitar’s goal 2:19 into overtime.
Kopitar added two assists against Dallas to extend his point streak to five games and has 20 points over Los Angeles’ 9-2-1 run. Jake Muzzin is on an eight-game streak after assisting on Lucic’s game-winner.
The Kings, winners of 15 of 20 at home, also have received outstanding work from Jonathan Quick, who improved to 9-1-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average in his last 11 starts with 27 saves against Dallas.
Devan Dubnyk continues to keep the Wild in games, having allowed five goals over his last three and sporting a 1.84 GAA through his past five. There’s a chance he may be rested in this one in favor of Darcy Kuemper, who stopped 35 shots in the previous meeting with Los Angeles.
Kuemper yielded three goals in winning three consecutive starts prior to a 2-1 loss to New Jersey on Jan. 10.
Stoll scored his first goal in 17 games with the Wild since being claimed off waivers from the New York Rangers on Dec. 15. The veteran center spent the previous seven seasons with Los Angeles and was a member of the Kings’ 2012 and ’14 Stanley Cup championship teams.