Preview: Wild at Kings
Fifteen months removed from a second Stanley Cup championship in three seasons, the Los Angeles Kings are in danger of making history of a different kind.
Seeking to avoid their first-ever 0-4 start, the Kings continue a difficult season-opening homestand with Friday night’s clash against the unbeaten Minnesota Wild.
Los Angeles (0-3-0) has been outscored 12-2 in its three losses and hasn’t had an even-strength goal since Nick Shore scored 1:49 into a 5-1 defeat to San Jose in the Oct. 7 opener. The offense was particularly anemic Tuesday against Vancouver, managing a mere 15 shots in a 3-0 loss that gave the Kings their worst start since 1969-70.
"We’re just not doing the things that we’ve got to do to get the quality chances and the shots," top-line center Anze Kopitar said. "Whether that’s not coming in with position or recovering the puck the way we should, we’re playing too soft."
Kopitar and notable offseason addition Milan Lucic are both minus-three without a point. Seven-time 30-goal scorer Marian Gaborik also has none and Jeff Carter owns just one assist.
"Absolutely there’s a sense of urgency. We need some production out of those guys," coach Darryl Sutter said.
A challenging schedule may have contributed to the early struggles, as the Kings’ first three opponents — San Jose, Arizona and Vancouver — are a combined 9-1-1.
Another tough assignment lies ahead. After going an NHL-best 28-9-3 over the final 40 games of last season, Minnesota (3-0-0) has begun this one with its best start since opening 2008-09 with four consecutive wins.
The Wild stayed undefeated with Thursday’s 4-3 victory over Arizona that started a three-game trip. Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek scored 58 seconds apart in the first period and Mikko Koivu stretched the lead to 3-0 in the second. Devan Dubnyk stopped 25 shots in his first meeting with the Coyotes since his mid-January trade that sparked the team’s second-half run.
Minnesota rallied from a 3-0 first-period deficit in its Oct. 8 opener at Colorado and won 3-2 over St. Louis two days later despite being outshot 32-19.
"Most of two periods looked like the way we should be playing the game, but it’s nice that we’re 3-0 and still haven’t played a full 60 minutes yet," coach Mike Yeo said.
Darcy Kuemper will be in goal Friday with the Wild playing back-to-back, only his second start since Dubnyk was acquired on Jan. 14. The former No. 1 goaltender was pulled after one period in his lone 2014-15 meeting with Los Angeles, allowing all four goals of a shutout home loss on Nov. 26.
The Kings won the first two matchups between the teams last season but lost 4-1 in Minnesota March 28, with Koivu and Nino Niederreiter each scoring twice and Sutter pulling Jonathan Quick after permitting two goals on nine shots over one period.
Quick stopped 25 of 27 shots against Vancouver after surrendering nine goals in the first two losses. He owns a 1.63 goals-against average in his last three games against the Wild at Staples Center, two of which were Minnesota wins.