Kings-Wild Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 30, 2013
Though the Minnesota Wild's winning streak finally came to an end on the road, they remain one of the league's best teams at home this season - particularly of late. But fresh off two big road wins against West contenders this week, the Los Angeles Kings likely won't be fazed when they enter the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night. The Wild (20-11-2) had won seven in a row before a 5-3 loss at Dallas on Friday, but they'll be happy to return to St. Paul, where they've won seven of eight and are 12-3-1 on the season. Friday's loss against the Stars was only four days removed from a 7-4 victory in the same building. The Wild claimed a 4-3 overtime win over Phoenix on Wednesday, while Dallas played no games in between the two meetings. "Let's be honest here, that was a team that sat here and practiced and got ready for us," coach Mike Yeo said. "We knew we were going to face their best game tonight. For many parts of the game, we were doing a lot of good things and we gave ourselves a chance. But in the end, we didn't get 'er done." The Kings (19-12-2) trail Minnesota by two points for fourth place in the West and are coming off road wins against St. Louis and Chicago. Eleven players tallied a point in Thursday's 4-2 win against the Blues, continuing a theme of offensive balance Los Angeles has shown all year. Six players have recorded at least 21 points, while eight more have at least 10. "I think it was pretty well distributed through our lineup," coach Darryl Sutter said. The Kings are also proving to be much more potent offensively after finishing second-worst in the league last season with an average of 2.3 goals per game. Despite a slow start this year in which they went 3-5-2 while averaging 2.2 goals, they rank near the top of the league scoring 2.9 goals per contest for the year. It hasn't always been esthetically pleasing, such as Mike Richards' go-ahead goal in Thursday's victory that saw him jam a soft rebound into the net with less than three minutes to go. "Before we were trying to make too many pretty plays," Richards said. "When you do that, you don't score as many goals if you just keep it simple and throw it to the net." Anze Kopitar enters with 22 points over his last 19 games, pushing his team-leading season total to 31. Kopitar also has nine points over his last five contests against Minnesota, while Dustin Brown has notched five points in the last two versus the Wild. Despite their winning streak ending, a number of individual runs are still going for Minnesota. Matt Cullen has 11 points over his last 10 games while Mikko Koivu has nine during a six-game streak. The Wild will hope for a better performance in net after calling up Matt Hackett to start Friday's game, giving Niklas Backstrom a night off after he made 12 consecutive starts. Hackett allowed five goals on 33 shots. The teams split four meetings last year, each claiming a win at home and on the road.
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