Minnesota Wild vs. Los Angeles Kings Preview


After getting their backsides tanned for the first time this young season, the Minnesota Wild look to right the ship and come home with a west coast split when they face the Los Angeles Kings this afternoon. Earning the split won’t be easy, as they face off against the defending Stanley Cup Champions at Staples Center for the matinée, and although the Kings are not known to be a regular season juggernaut,  the Wild sported a nice 2-0-1 record against them last year. After this, the Wild will wrap up in Southern California, and head home for a Thursday tilt against the Phoenix Arizona Coyotes.

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Game Preview-

As is common with the early season stats, the tale of the tape doesn’t give you the whole picture, but one noticeable stat is that the Kings are also having trouble with their Power Play unit. This bodes well for the Wild, as I think this will be a similar game to Friday, and keeping the Kings out of the net will be crucial, as it doesn’t figure to be a high scoring affair. The question will ultimately be Niklas Backstrom, who makes his first start of the season, and the subsequent sharpness of his game will likely be the biggest factor on either side of the contest. Someone who won’t be a factor is our old friend Marion Gaborik, who, tell me if you’ve heard this before, is injured.

Line Changes-

It appears as though Mike Yeo is sticking with the same forward lines from Friday night, which all seemed like they worked pretty well, and despite the outcome, all had decent scoring chances throughout the contest. This does mean, however, that Kyle Brodziak will again be a healthy scratch, which is a little surprising to some, and a reason to throw a party for others. Meanwhile, the changes that will be made to the lines are on defense and the Power Play units, as Christain Folin and Nate Prosser are replacing the Dumba/Ballard third pairing from Friday, a move that was planned before the road trip from all indications, and had nothing to do with anything that happened Friday. The hapless power play is getting a reshuffling, as reported by the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo yesterday:

We will see what this does for the so far completely unsuccessful Power Play, but at least Yeo is trying something with the personnel, even though I think the problems go deeper than that. Hopefully this can break the 0 for 11 streak to start the season.

Goaltending Matchup-

The Wild are going to start Niklas Backstrom for the first time since January 11 today, and although that’s a long time off, his play in camp and the preseason is reassuring that he’s ready for the challenge. Camp and Preseason, however, are not full-blown NHL games, and as said earlier, I think his level of play will decide the game for both teams, and along with the power play, is paramount to earning the much-needed split.

The Kings have yet to announce their starting goalie officially, but I would assume the Jonathan Quick would again get the call, as he’s been playing well lately, and backup Martin Jones has already seen game action this year. Quick is 2-1-1 with a .944 Save % and 2.09 GAA so far this year, and undoubtedly the backbone of this team, as evidenced by their two Stanley Cup runs. Cracking Quick won’t be easy for the Wild, which just adds to my prediction of a very low scoring affair, and again, makes the power play scoring all the more important.


As previously beaten to death, the storylines to today’s game will likely be Backstrom and the Power Play. Both will play absolutely crucial parts in winning the game today, as having to scrape and claw for scoring is the norm when facing the Kings. Backstrom may need to stand on his head to best Jonathan Quick, and any soft goals allowed could spell a west coast stinkbomb after such a promising start to the season. The Power Play meanwhile,  on the negative side of the +/- register right now, which is pretty horrendous, and needs to break out of the funk in a big way. Beating the Kings in LA is possible, but will be a hard-fought contest, and keeping them stifled on the penalty kill will also be very important for the Wild.

All in all, this is a very important game for the Wild early in the season, as they wrap up facing three playoff teams in four games to start the season. A win here is pretty critical to the team’s momentum, as leaving California 2-2-0 after such a dominating opening weekend effectively kills the hot streak that the team is on. Even though they play the fairly beatable Coyotes on Thursday at home, getting some kind of points at least out of this game should be a very, very important to the boys in white.