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Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Los Angeles Kings 12/11/21 @ 9:30PM CST at Crypto.com Arena

Minnesota Wild (19-6-1)  39pts 1st in the Central

3.77 Goals For Per Game (3rd in the NHL)

2.81 Goals Against Per Game (17th in the NHL)

16.7% Power Play (23rd in the NHL)

81.3% Penalty Kill (17th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 10G 22A = 32pts

2. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 13G 9A = 22pts

3. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 7G 14A = 21pts

4. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 11G 8A = 19pts

5. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 11G 6A = 17pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 48 PIM’s

2. #21 Brandon Dumaime ~ 44 PIM’s

3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 23 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #33 Cam Talbot ~ (15-5-0)   2.59GAA   .920SV%

2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen ~ (4-1-1)   2.87GAA   .895SV%

 

Vs.

 

Los Angeles King (11-10-4)  26pts 6th in the Pacific

2.68 Goals For Per Game (25th in the NHL)

2.64 Goals Against Per Game (9th in the NHL)

19.5% Power Play (16th in the NHL)

75.0% Penalty Kill (27th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #11 Anze Kopitar ~ 8G 16A = 24pts

2. #9 Andrian Kempe ~ 11G 5A = 16pts

3. #19 Alex Iafallo ~ 9G 7A = 16pts

4. #33 Viktor Arvidsson ~ 5G 8A = 13pts

5. #24 Phillip Danault ~ 3G 9A = 12pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #2 Alexander Edler ~ 22 PIM’s

2. #9 Adrian Kempe ~ 20 PIM’s

3. #24 Phiilip Danault ~ 14 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #40 Cal Petersen ~ (5-5-1)   3.10GAA   .893SV%

2. #32 Jonathan Quick ~ (6-5-3)   2.11GAA   .931SV%   2SO

Lines:

Los Angeles Kings

Kempe~Kopitar~Brown

Iafallo~Danault~Arvidsson

Moore~Kupari~Kaliyev

Grundstrom~Anderson-Dolan~Athanasiou

Anderson~Doughty

Edler~Roy

Bjornfot~Durzi

Petersen

Quick

Minnesota Wild

Kaprizov~Hartman~Zuccarello

Greenway~Eriksson Ek~Foligno

Shaw~Rask~Fiala

Duhaime~Sturm~Bjugstad

Goligoski~Sprgeon

Brodin~Kulikov

Merrill~Benn

Talbot

Kahkonen

 

Before we dig in here today, we need to back to a bit earlier in the season. Near the start of the 2021-22 season, prior to the Minnesota Wild’s game against Los Angeles back on October 16th, the Bally Sports-California broadcaster asked various Kings’ players what they thought of Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov, who in the previous seasons and won the Calder Trophy for best rookie in the league. Many were complimentary in discussing his elusiveness on the ice and skill. Yet for the compliments, there was some shade thrown at the young Russian. The most notable coming from Kings forward Dustin Brown. Several times, he seriously asked “who?”. And then there was Drew Doughty, Kings longtime defensemen, who called him “overpaid.”

Interesting comment for Doughty to make of all people. Many people around the league consider Doughty to be one of the most “overpaid” players in the league. He’s a 32-year-old defenseman, who makes $11-million a season. He’s 53rd among league defensemen in scoring with 11 points in 9 games this season. He’s been out a good chunk this season after taking a knee-to-knee hit against Dallas’ Jani Hakanpaa in late October. That’s a great pace, but shouldn’t you have to be playing to “earn” your money? But the point it, I have no patience for either Brown or Doughty. But hey, I guess whatever you have to say to boost yourselves up since you’re now on the downward slide of your careers.

But all kidding aside, the Kings are not a team to be in the position of casting stones these days. The team is 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. Even though they prevailed 4-0 on Thursday night against Dallas, that was their first win in the last eight games. The Kings are just above .500 and sit in 6th place in the Pacific Division. Not exactly something to write home about. This is a team I think that likes to cling to past success thinking it will bring them success in the future. I mean, just look at their roster. There are players on this team that I wonder if will ever leave. Doughty and Brown might be a bit like the Adam Sandler character of Happy Gilmore thinking he has a hockey career, even though they’ve been told they can’t play anymore.

However, the Kings have tried to make some changes during the off-season to make themselves a little younger and faster. They added two-way center Phillip Danault and pesky winger Viktor Arvidsson. While those two have had some success, it hasn’t instantly transformed Los Angeles into a contender. Anze Kopitar, the immensely talented Slovenian continues to be a workhorse for the Kings, and it still their most dangerous scoring thread as well as their best playmaker. On the wings, Kopitar is flanked by Adrian Kempe and gritty veteran Brown. Brown has always been a bit of a thorn in the Wild’s side in season’s past, most notably his dirty that knocked out Jason Pominville just prior to the 2013 NHL playoffs. Danault anchors the second line alongside Arvidsson and former Minnesota-Duluth star, Alex Iafallo. Arvidsson may be small, but he loves to work his way near the crease in search of goals. Iafallo is cooling off a bit after a hot start to the season. The rest of the club’s bottom six is mostly made of young players like Rasmus Kupari, Arthur Kaliyev, Carl Grundstrom, and Jarrett Anderson-Dolan. All three of these players bring speed, skill, and scoring tough as well as some much needed youthful energy. The ridiculously fast, but enigmatic Andreas Anthanasiou is playing the Kings’ fourth line.

On defense, the Kings have also tried to embrace a bit of a youth movement. Roseville, Minnesota’s Mikey Anderson is partnered with Doughty. Wild skaters will have to contend with Doughty for what feels like most of the game, as he logs over 24 minutes of ice time per game. Longtime Vancouver stalwart Alexander Edler, is on the second pairing with the gritty Matt Roy and rookies Sean Durzi and Tobias Bjornfot round out their blueline corps.

Between the pipes, Waterloo, Iowa-native, Cal Peterson seemed to take the starting goaltending spot at the start of the season. However, he has struggled as of late. That has meant the team is now back to giving veteran Jonathan Quick more starts, although the team mostly uses a 50-50 rotation. Quick had the shutout against Dallas on Thursday, so I would guess he’s get the start against the Wild. Especially since Quick has the most experience against Minnesota. Although I’m not sure if that experience will make for much against a Wild team that many have probably underestimated this season. I’ll admit, even I didn’t think we’d see these kinds of results this season.

Minnesota is a team built a little differently this season. No Mikko Koivu. No Zach Parise. No Ryan Suter. I don’t think anyone expected to see Ryan Hartman leading the team in goals scored. And with that in mind, I don’t think anyone expected that Marcus Foligno would have 11 goals by December, Foligno included. They may give up more goals that they’d like, but when they do, they just find a way to score one or two more goals. I can’t think of the last time that the Minnesota Wild were in third place in the league when it comes to goals for per game, in December no less. For the longest time, this was the team known for great goals against per game and penalty kill, doing just about anything to prevent the opposition from scoring. This season, they’re going for goals, and doing just enough defensively to stay in the win column. If you needed a better illustration of this, look at starting goaltender Cam Talbot. His GAA and SV% are nothing to really get excited about. However, he’s making great saves at the right time and his skaters are getting the clutch goals when needed. How can I prove this? Look at wins by a goaltender. Talbot leads the league with 15 wins this season. Sure he has no shutouts, and his other stats make you go “meh”, but he’s winning where it matters most. An ugly win is still a win, and that seems to be the way this team is built this season. How long it is sustainable, well that’s a story for another day.

About Derek Felska

I am a hockey blogger originally from Elk River, MN. I have been blogging about Minnesota hockey for over 13 years and I like to cover it from the NHL on down to High School hockey. I try to provide honest, objective perspective from a 'non-homer' sort of fan. I hope my work reflects this approach.

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