The Los Angeles Kings were among the most successful road teams in the NHL last season, a big reason why they won their second Stanley Cup title in three years in June.
They haven’t carried that success into 2014-15, and the Minnesota Wild aren’t ready to be gracious hosts.
The Kings will try to cap their three-game road trip on a positive note Wednesday night against the Wild, one of the league’s top home teams.
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Los Angeles (11-6-5) went 23-14-4 on the road last season, adding eight more victories in the playoffs. The Kings, however, haven’t come close to being that effective this season, going 1-4-4 after Dwight King was stopped in the sixth round of the shootout in a 4-3 loss at Nashville.
They’ve dropped their last three games that have reached the tiebreaker.
"It was a hard-fought point," coach Darryl Sutter said. "We have to start scoring some shootout goals. It cost us on the road."
Scoring in regulation hasn’t been a problem, with Los Angeles averaging 2.6 goals on the road compared to 2.8 at home. However, the Kings are giving up 3.4 goals per game away from L.A., and starting goaltender Jonathan Quick owns a 3.35 goals-against average and a 1-3-3 road record.
Quick, though, is 5-1-1 with a 2.06 GAA in seven career visits to Minnesota, and he also had 40 saves in a 2-1 home win Oct. 19. He’ll likely face the Wild (12-8-0) again after being rested Tuesday in favor of backup Martin Jones, who had 30 saves before turning aside five shootout attempts.
Los Angeles won 3-2 in a shootout in its last game at St. Paul on Oct. 3, 2013, ending a three-game losing streak there (0-1-2).
Minnesota is looking to re-establish that success, and it’s 7-1-0 at home this season – scoring 10 goals while winning the last two games.
The venue hasn’t mattered much lately, as the Wild have scored 20 times while winning five of their last six. That continued early Monday, holding a 14-5 shooting edge while scoring twice in the opening period en route to a 4-1 win at Florida.
"Real pleased with the battle level right from the start; guys were very engaged in it," coach Mike Yeo said. "For a good part of the game, our game looked the way it was supposed to look."
Yeo likely feels that way about Nino Niederreiter, who has six goals in six games after finding the net against the Panthers. The right wing leads Minnesota with 10 goals after scoring a career-high 14 last season – his first with the Wild.
Niederreiter, though, has one goal in five career meetings with the Kings, coming up empty on three shots Oct. 19.
Forward Jason Zucker has contributed three goals in three games, including two Monday to give him a career-high eight.
Darcy Kuemper is expected to be back in net, and he’s 6-1-0 with a 1.73 GAA and two shutouts in eight home games – seven starts. He was rested Monday in favor of Niklas Backstrom, who had 29 saves.
Backstrom started at Los Angeles last month, stopping 14 shots.