Originally posted on Fox Sports North
By ASSOCIATED PRESS  |  Last updated 10/3/13
Despite finishing short of their aspirations last season, the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild added little to their respective rosters. Instead, they're hoping their stalwarts can carry them further this year. Coming off their most successful two-year run in franchise history, Los Angeles plays at Minnesota on Thursday night in an opener for both clubs. The Kings made their second consecutive trip to the Western Conference finals after earning the fifth seed with a 27-16-5 record. General manager Dean Lombardi made few alterations to his roster, instead maintaining most of the core from the 2012 Stanley Cup squad. Despite still being relatively freshly removed from that run, the Kings don't appear to be lacking in terms of motivation. "Doing what we did in 2012 showed not only the players, but the staff and management, what it actually means and how special it is to win it," captain Dustin Brown, who signed an eight-year extension in the offseason, told the team's official website. "So the next year when you don't win it, you feel like you've lost a lot more than you did." While the Wild made waves last year with their big-money signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, injuries played a key role in a season that was ultimately a disappointment. Minnesota claimed the West's final playoff spot with a 26-19-3 record and was eliminated in the first round by Chicago in five games. The Wild sought to add some firepower with their deadline acquisition of Jason Pominville from Buffalo, but his impact was limited as he dealt with a concussion. Right winger Dany Heatley also missed the final 12 regular-season games and the entire playoff series after suffering a torn labrum the same day Minnesota traded for Pominville. The Wild managed just 5 goals on 42 power-play chances (11.9 percent) in those 17 games without Heatley compared to a 17.5 percent success rate previously. A strong bounce-back campaign for Heatley after offseason surgery would be a huge boost for Minnesota. "With a big body like Dany's, especially the closer you get to the net, and his touch along there, he can score a lot of goals like he showed in the past," said captain Mikko Koivu, whose 37 points were second-most on the team. "We sure missed him last year at the end so of course he's a big help for us when he's healthy." Los Angeles wasn't able to retain all of its key players, losing left wing Dustin Penner to Anaheim and defenseman Rob Scuderi, who led the club with 66 blocked shots, to Pittsburgh. The Kings hope Matt Frattin - whom they acquired from Toronto along with Ben Scrivens to back up Jonathan Quick in net in exchange for Jonathan Bernier - can fill in for Penner. Los Angeles will likely need center Anze Kopitar to regain his form. He was held without a goal in the club's final 16 regular-season contests and recorded a minus-2 rating in 18 playoff games. The Wild could be a good opponent for Kopitar to get back on track against as he has 15 points over the last 11 meetings, though he didn't record one in the teams' most recent matchup, a 2-1 Wild win in St. Paul on April 23. The Wild have never lost a home opener in Minnesota, going 10-0-0 with one tie. They were the designated home team in a 2010 loss to Carolina in Finland.
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