Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Los Angeles Kings 2/26/21 @ 7:00PM CST at Xcel Energy Center

Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Los Angeles Kings 2/26/21 @ 7:00PM CST at Xcel Energy Center

Wild

Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Los Angeles Kings 2/26/21 @ 7:00PM CST at Xcel Energy Center

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Minnesota Wild (10-6-0)  20pts  5th in Honda West

3.13 Goals For Per Game (10th in the NHL)

2.50 Goals Against Per Game (5th in the NHL)

8.8% Power Play (30th in the NHL)

86.4% Penalty Kill (5th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 4G 11A = 15pts

2. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 2G 9A = 11pts

3. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 6G 4A = 10pts

4. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 3G 6A = 9pts

5. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 3G 6A = 9pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 27 PIM’s

2. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 24 PIM’s

3. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 16 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #33 Cam Talbot (3-2-0)  2.40GAA  .920%SP

2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (7-4-0)  2.37GAA  .917%SP

 

Vs.

 

Los Angeles Kings (9-6-3)  21pts  3rd in Honda West

3.06 Goals For Per Game (12th in the NHL)

2.67 Goals Against Per Game (10th in the NHL)

24.6% Power Play (10th in the NHL)

84.5% Penalty Kill (7th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #11 Anze Kopitar ~ 4G 17A = 21pts

2. #23 Dustin Brown ~ 11G 6A = 17pts

3. #8 Drew Doughty ~ 4G 11A = 15pts

4. #19 Alex Iafallo ~ 5G 8A = 13pts

5. #77 Jeff Carter ~ 3G 8A = 11pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #23 Dustin Brown ~ 14 PIM’s

2. #8 Drew Doughty ~ 8 PIM’s

3. #44 Mikey Anderson~ 8 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #40 Cal Petersen (4-4-1)  2.28GAA  .931%SP

2. #32 Jonathan Quick (5-2-2)  2.82GAA  .903%SP  2SO

Lines:

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo~Kopitar~Brown

Kempe~Vilardi~Carter

Grundstrom~Lizotte~Moore

Athanasiou~Amadio~Wagner

Mi. Anderson~Doughty

Bjornfot~Roy

Maatta~Walker

Quick

Petersen

Minnesota Wild

Greenway~Eriksson Ek~Fiala

Kaprizov~Rask~Zuccarello

Parise~Hartman~Foligno

Sturm~Bonino~Bjugstad

Suter~Spurgeon

Brodin~Dumba

Soucy~Cole

Kahkonen

Talbot

 

Well here we are. Did anyone around the league think we would get to a point this season, where a game between the Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings would not only be interesting to watch, but that it would have standings implications? Both teams are playing very well. Not only are they playing well, but they almost make their opposition look like the proverbial chopped liver. And if both teams continue to play as they have, it’s going to end up being a game of who makes the slightest of mistakes and when. However, it’s going to be games like tonight and tomorrow night that help determine, which of these two teams is the better of the pair. After this back-to-back series, there is only one more meeting with the Kings. This is where the separation between the two teams will happen. That’s what makes me nervous. Playing San Jose or Anaheim is nothing like playing a surging Los Angeles. But there’s some drama there, perhaps that will get in the way.

For the Minnesota Wild, every game we’re seeing the scoring and energy coming from different segments. Some nights, it’s going to be Kevin Fiala. Other nights it’s been the Mats Zucarello-Kirill Kaprizov show. But regardless of what line shows up to play, there’s usually supporting play by players like Marcus Foligno and lately Ryan Hartman. This has made games fun to watch. All of this gets supported by a solid blueline, completely healthy after being ravaged by Covid-19. The craziest part, is if the Wild continue to play as they have in the past four games, this is probably the best they’ve played in several seasons. Sure, with the exception of the Colorado Avalanche, they haven’t exactly played top notch opponents. But, they haven’t played like they’re taking their opponents lightly. They look like they’re treating each opponent as if that opponent were a true Stanley Cup contender. In the past, the Wild would have taken the night off against a lesser team, and it would show. Also, they’re also playing like the break in action due to Covid-19 never happened. Again, this is the team that whenever they’ve returned from a break, they generally look like crap. Yes, they lost the first game from the return (against the Kings no less), but it was an understandable loss.

The Minnesota Wild were briefly in third place in the Honda West Division after beating Anaheim. I say briefly, because it feels like Minnesota and Los Angles are tied at the hip. If one of them wins, the other one wins, so there’s rarely a change in the standings. The same goes for Arizona, as the Coyotes keep winning as well. They’re sitting in that important fourth spot in the division, so the standings just don’t change. Perhaps these three teams, especially when they face each other (like tonight), will put a bigger spotlight on them by hockey media. Yet instead of how the three teams are playing, the focus may find itself focused on a little bit of drama. It appears that Hockey Canada has decided to not be in conversations with Drew Doughty for being on the 2022 Olympic Team. I can see both sides of this. Part of me is like “Drew, stop being an entitled child. Your inner Karen is showing.” The other part of me is like “Wow, he’s been such a mainstay for Team Canada, it would be weird to not see him there.” Although I have to admit, I’m probably in more of the first camp, because he’s been on several Team Canada Olympic teams, it might be time to move on. It will be interesting to see if this drama comes into the Kings’ games. I would expect Doughty to come out and play every game like he has something to prove.

I will say the best part of tonight, is a normal start time. Yet, I do worry when this team returns home. Because while the team enforces strict health protocols while on the road, I doubt these are happening at home. There have been grumblings that the Wild’s Covid-19 outbreak was due to the wives of the players. Now, I doubt that they’ve been out having girls’ nights out, but they are the ones running the errands for the family. They’re the one parent who is home full time. They’re responsible for groceries (although being in a metro area, they can shop online and have them delivered). They’re responsible for getting the kids to school and doctor appointments. Their kids are going to school. Now while kids are getting infected at far lower rates than adults, they can still be carriers. So the little germ monsters come home and bring all sorts of illnesses home with them. I would imagine that most children of professional hockey players attend private schools. It’s hard to say what those private schools are requiring as far as masks and social distancing. I can only hope that the majority of them are following the mandates issued by Governor Tim Walz (who was a former teacher by the way). My only hope is after the outbreak on the team, things are being taken far more seriously at home.

It should be a good night. But just remember this. It’s not going to be easy. Consider tonight and tomorrow nights’ games as a precursor of what it to come. March is going to be a beast.

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