The Minnesota Wild’s season-opening gauntlet against the Western Conference’s best continues Sunday when they visit the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
But it’s their most recent loss, not their upcoming opponent, that has Minnesota coach Mike Yeo’s attention.
"We’re always a lot more focused on ourselves than on our opponent," Yeo said. "Obviously, we have a lot of respect for them, but this will be our first opportunity to have a bounce-back game where we’re coming off a disappointing, hard fought game that we ended up losing in a tough way.
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"Getting our mentality and our mindset in the right place. That’s the biggest challenge."
Minnesota (2-1-0) fell to Anaheim 2-1 on Friday after starting the season with shutouts in a home-and-home sweep of Colorado. The Ducks and Avalanche finished first and second, respectively, in the Western Conference in 2013-14.
Even in the proper state of mind, though, the Kings (3-1-1) pose a stiff test.
Riding the success of ‘That 70s Line,’ the Kings are looking for their fourth straight win. Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli have combined for nine of the Kings’ 12 goals and 16 points overall. Pearson leads Los Angeles with four goals, while Carter and Toffoli both rank among the NHL leaders with a plus-8 through five games.
Carter has been especially successful against Minnesota. The 10-year veteran has netted a goal in four of his past six meetings with the Wild.
"It’s translated over from last year in the playoffs," Pearson said. "Toff and I played with each other at (AHL affiliate) Manchester for however long, so that chemistry was always there. Then putting a guy like Carts in the middle, it’s pretty easy to play with."
They will likely run headlong into Darcy Kuemper, one of the NHL’s hottest goaltenders in the young season.
After blanking the Avalanche twice, Kuemper extended his shutout streak to a club-record 163 minutes and 46 seconds before conceding a goal in the third period to the Ducks.
Kuemper hopes that success continues in Los Angeles against a team he has played only twice. Kuemper allowed one goal in 57 minutes of relief in 2013 against the Kings, then stopped all four shootout attempts in a 2-1 victory last season after making 39 saves.
Jonathan Quick, Kuemper’s counterpart, is no stranger to shutouts either. Quick finished second in the NHL last season with six and blanked St. Louis in a 1-0 shootout win Thursday for his 32nd career shutout, tying the Kings franchise record held by Rogie Vachon.
"It’s two points," Quick said. "It’s more about wins that shutouts. That’s what you’re focused on every time you go out there."
Passing Vachon will be a tall task for Quick, as the Wild rank near the top of the league at 36.7 shots per game. Quick is 8-4-3 with a 2.48 goals-against average lifetime against the Wild but is 1-1-2 against Minnesota since 2013.
Minnesota won two of the three matchups between the teams last season.