The Los Angeles Kings have been reduced to spoilers this season, and they’re looking very comfortable in that role.
The Kings will vie for their fifth straight victory on Saturday afternoon when they host the Minnesota Wild.
Los Angeles has strung together wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, Vegas Golden Knights and Toronto Maple Leafs. Three of those teams are battling for playoff position.
The Wild also belong to that club entering play on Friday. They leapfrogged four teams on Thursday to move into the first wild-card spot from the Western Conference with a 3-2 win at the San Jose Sharks.
Following a 1-0 shootout victory against the visiting Maple Leafs on Thursday, Kings coach Todd McLellan cited a few reasons for his team’s improved play — mainly a more friendly schedule.
“Being on the road as much as we were, basically from the end of November all the way to this last long road trip, it took a toll on the guys,” McLellan said. “Throw the trade deadline in there, now we’re settling in and we’ve got some guys playing for their lives. Borderline players who are getting great opportunities, and they want to play hard and stay in the league.”
The Wild surged back into a playoff spot for the first time in three months by winning seven of their past nine games.
“There’s obviously still a lot of games left, but to know you’re over that wild-card line, it’s great,” center Alex Galchenyuk told reporters after the win in San Jose. “At the same time, I think we deserve it as a group. There’s still a way to go, but it’s definitely something positive.”
Minnesota forward Eric Staal, who is tied for second on the team with 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists), is not on the three-game road trip because of a death in the family.
Zach Parise continues to carry the load for the Wild, regardless of who’s on his line.
Parise had a goal and an assist against San Jose to extend his point streak to five games (four goals, four assists). Parise has goals in four consecutive contests.
“We’ve had a lot of scoring chances and a lot of opportunities,” Parise said. “Everyone benefits from that.”
Both the Wild and the Kings have benefited from better goaltending lately.
Minnesota has allowed eight goals in the past five games, while the Kings have permitted eight non-shootout tallies in their past six.
The Kings enter Friday’s play in 30th place in the NHL in scoring at 2.46 goals a game, but Minnesota goalie Alex Stalock said the Wild won’t relax on defense.
“We can’t be complacent,” he said. “(We) talk about being a predictable team. Every night we want to show up and want people to know what we’re going to bring. We’re going to play a fast game. We’re going to get pucks to the net. We’re going to play strong defensively and keep it going.”
McLellan said he knows what to expect from the Wild.
“We’re going to play a real good team, a desperate team on Saturday afternoon,” he said. “They’re on fire right now and they’ll be another test for us.”
–Field Level Media