Thanks to the Minnesota Wild, the Los Angeles Kings have an opportunity to pull further ahead for the Pacific Division’s final guaranteed playoff spot.
A third win over the Wild this season would do the trick.
Visiting Los Angeles looks to snap Minnesota’s four-game winning streak and sweep the season series Saturday night.
The Kings (37-23-14) remained one point ahead of Calgary for third place in the Pacific after the Wild (43-25-7) defeated the Flames 4-2 on Friday. The defending Stanley Cup champions earned that position with Thursday’s 3-2 win over the New York Islanders.
Anze Kopitar scored the winner with 4:23 left in the third for Los Angeles, which has won the first three of a five-game trip and is 6-0-1 in its last seven on the road.
"We didn’t have the best road record coming in, but it doesn’t really matter what happened," Kopitar said of the Kings, who are now 15-14-7 away from home. "We are looking ahead. We have eight games left, and we have to win a few more to get (a playoff) spot."
Rookie Nick Shore scored his first NHL goal.
"It feels good any time you score a goal, but most importantly we came out with a win," Shore said. "We are looking to keep it going in Minnesota."
Coach Darryl Sutter was impressed with the line of Shore, Dustin Brown and Trevor Lewis.
"Quality is production. That’s what quality is, is production," Sutter said. "If you’re playing with Brown and Lewis, we need production out of those guys. All three had a hard time with the offense part of it for quite a while now. All three of ’em, so we need them to produce for us to win hockey games. That’s clear."
The Kings won the first meeting 2-1 on Oct. 19, then scored each goal in the first period of a 4-0 win Nov. 26 in Minnesota. Each of those victories came before the Wild acquired Devan Dubnyk from Arizona on Jan. 14, though.
Dubnyk has started all 33 games since joining the Wild, improving to 25-6-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average after stopping 23 shots against the Flames.
The Wild have a league-best plus-44 goal differential since Dubnyk took over in net. This would be the sixth set of back-to-back games he has started since the trade if he gets the nod against the Kings.
Minnesota, which has won six of seven, holds the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot and pulled to within one point of Chicago for third place in the Central.
Thomas Vanek scored his seventh goal in the last 11 games, a stretch in which he also has four assists. Zach Parise secured the sixth 30-goal season of his career on a breakaway in the third.
"We’ve got a really hard schedule ahead of us, but for us we’re worried about ourselves," Parise said. "We can’t control the other stuff but we can control how we’re playing and getting better."
Dubnyk made two starts against the Kings this season while with the Coyotes, going 1-1-0 with a 2.91 GAA.
Jonathan Quick is 6-2-1 with a 1.56 GAA over his last nine after making 25 saves against the Islanders. He hasn’t started either meeting with the Wild but is 5-1-1 with a 2.06 GAA in seven career starts in Minnesota.