Wild get one last crack at historic win
Thursday, 12.31.2009 / 7:00 PM
KINGS (22-15-3) at WILD (20-17-3)
: Los Angeles 5-5-0; Minnesota 6-4-0
: Third of four meetings this season and the second in four nights. Eric Belanger scored twice to lead Minnesota to a 4-3 win in Los Angeles on Monday. That tied up the season series after the Kings doubled up the Wild 6-3 on Oct. 8, with Ryan Smyth lighting the lamp twice.
: In today's NHL, it doesn't take long at all to go from the penthouse to the outhouse. It wasn't long ago when the Kings surged to the top of the Western Conference -- now, amidst four consecutive losses and a stretch where they didn't play for eight days, they have slipped to eighth place, just two points ahead of Dallas for the postseason cutoff. This will be their second game in as many nights, as they try to push back in the right direction.
: Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this skid for Los Angeles has been that all four losses came by a single goal and were games the Kings could have won with a break here or a bounce there. Dustin Brown
was awarded a penalty shot in the second period of Wednesday's 2-1 defeat, but the puck rolled off his stick as he moved in on Miikka Kiprusoff and he never got a shot on the Flames goaltender.
"It's the second half now. These are almost like playoff games," veteran defenseman Sean O'Donnell said. "You've got to make the other team earn their goals and get their chances.
"We're still learning. We've made some great strides. We're going in the right direction. And we're doing good things. We still make great plays. The last (step), going in the right direction, is not beating ourselves."
: Thursday's game represents a second chance for Minnesota to set the franchise record by winning its 11th game of the month. The Wild missed on their first opportunity and saw a three-game win streak end with a 4-2 loss to the Ducks on Tuesday.
"We weren't great, we did some uncharacteristic things but the guys still played extremely hard," coach Todd Richards told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
: Rookie forward Scott Parse
scored the Kings' lone goal Wednesday, his second straight game with a tally. ... Wild defenseman Kim Johnsson has goals in three consecutive games. He has scored in both games against Los Angeles this season.
: Forwards Andrei Loktionov
(shoulder), Jarret Stoll
(groin) and Justin Williams
(right leg/ankle) are all on injured reserve for Los Angeles, while defenseman Randy Jones has been out of action due to a neck injury.
Concussions have sidelined Minnesota defenseman Brent Burns and forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard
and Petr Sykora. Forward Robbie Earl has joined them on injured reserve as he battles flu-like symptoms, and forward Chuck Kobasew is out long-term due to a sprained MCL/ACL.
: Jonathan Quick
should be back in net for the Kings after Erik Ersberg gave him a rare breather Wednesday. Quick leads the League in both games (36) and minutes (2,164) played.
: The schedule-maker didn't do Los Angeles any favors sending them to Minnesota the day after a game in Calgary, while meanwhile Minnesota begins a stretch in which it plays six of its next seven on home ice. The Wild are 12-4-1 at the Xcel Energy Center this season, so this would be a quality win if the Kings could earn it.