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Mar 29, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30) watches the play during the first period against the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild at Los Angeles Kings: Preview

Jan 7, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (8) and Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) defends the goal from Minnesota Wild left wing Erik Haula (56) during the second period of the game at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild are in Los Angeles to take on the Kings in a game that has far more meaning for the Wild than Kings.  L.A. (3rd place) is currently 9 points back of San Jose (2nd place)and 10 points ahead of Phoenix (4th place) in the Pacific Division.  The probability of them moving up or down in the standings is pretty slim with 7 games to play.  Your Minnesota Wild on the other hand are locked in a fight to the death with Phoenix and Dallas in the Western Conference Wild Card race. Entering play tonight the Wild have 87 points and 7 games to play.  The Coyotes have 84 points and 7 games left, while Dallas has 83 points and 8 games left in the regular season.

So far this season the Wild and Kings have split a pair of games with each team winning by shootout on their opponents home ice.  In the last meeting between the squads Darcy Kuemper posted a 39 save performance and stopped all four L.A. shooter in the shootout to earn the 2-1 victory on January 7th.  The Kings took the game in St. Paul back on Opening Night, October 3rd, by a 3-2 final score after a shootout.  The goalie for Minnesota that game was someone named Niklas Backstrom. WHO? I think his image will be on milk cartons in the Twin Cities soon, it’s been that long since a Backstrom sighting.  Tonight once again is a big game for the Wild with both Phoenix and Dallas idle. The Wild can up lead to 5 points with win and put more pressure back on Coyotes and Stars.

Ilya Bryzgalov will get the start in net tonight for Minnesota.  Since joining the team he’s 3-0-2 with a shutout, a 2.19 goals against average and a .910  save percentage.  Bryzgalov has become more than a rental for the Wild as he’s been assuming a leadership role, mentoring young Darcy Kuemper, and moving from backup to starter.  Speaking of Kuemper, he reportedly left the ice not feeling well during the morning skate and Andrew Brunette put on the pads for the rest of the practice session. I can’t wait to see a picture of that. Later information has Keumper with an upper body injury of some sort.  He reportedly was favoring an arm. It will be much closer to game time before we know who will be backing up Bryzgalov.  Tonight Bryzgalov will need to be big in net against a Kings team that averages 2.41 goals a game.  That’s a scant .02 better than Minnesota’s 2.39.  The Kings allow an average of 2.07 goals a night to the Wild’s 2.43.  The Kings rank second best in goals against to the Wild’s 6th in the NHL.  That’s a big part of why 5 fo the last 6 games between these two teams have been decided by 1 goal.

The forward lines for tonight’s tilt will be the same as last game.  The line juggling Head Coach Mike Yeo did seemed to bear fruit and dominated the last half of the game vs Phoenix.  Those lines are:

Charlie Coyle-Mikko Koivu-Zach Parise

Jason Pominville-Mikael Granlund-Matt Moulson

Matt Cooke-Kyle Brodziak-Justin Fontaine

Nino Niederreiter-Erik Haula-Stephane Veilleux

The Defensive pairs will be the same as well tonight.  Last game Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon were fantastic with each a +3 and Spurgeon basting home th game winner in late in the third period.  Tonight is also D-man Jonathon Blum‘s 100th career NHL game.  He has been very steady on the back end and showing the ability to put the puck on net from range as well.  The pairs for tonight are:

Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin-Nate Prosser

Jon Blum-Marco Scandella

The Wild have a late start tonight with puck drop at 9:00 pm Central Time.  So put on the coffee and turn on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN).  The Kings have been playing very well as of late winning 6 straight and going 7-3-0 in their last 10 games.  The Wild are 4-4-2 over their last 10 but have picked up points in 4 of their last five road contests.  This should be a good close game tonight with the Wild needing to come out and play a desperate game.  I’ll be back after the game with a recap and more.  Until then this is Scott Drain shouting out loud and clear, “LET’S GO WILD, LET’S GO WILD!!!”

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