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Kings begin 10-game road trip at Minnesota

by Brian Compton
KINGS (27-22-1) at WILD (25-19-5)

TV: PRIME, Fox Sports-North, Fox Sports-Wisconsin.

Last 10: Los Angeles 5-5-0; Minnesota 6-4-0.

Season Series: This is the third of four meetings between the teams. After suffering a 3-2 loss on Oct. 25, Minnesota evened the score with a 3-2 win of its own on Dec. 11 at the Staples Center.

Big Story: They've been plagued by inconsistency this season, but the Kings enter Tuesday's action riding a three-game winning streak. They're hoping that momentum carries into the second half of the season as they're still one point out of a playoff spot in the incredibly-tight Western Conference.

But to get back into the top eight, Los Angeles is going to have to win on the road. Tuesday marks the beginning of a 10-game road trip for the Kings, who have 10 of 23 games away from Staples Center this season. They'll play their next home game on Feb. 24.

"We've talked about this road trip, going back a long time," Kings coach Terry Murray told Rich Hammond of "It might even be a month, a month and a half. It wasn't discussed at length, but it was part of team meetings and team reviews we have as part of the postgame. Then you end up talking about what's in front of us, getting into the month of February, and how important it was to play well in our homestand and take advantage of the opportunity to build and put some points on the board.

"So, it has been addressed. It has been talked about with our leadership group. No one is nervous about coming on the road. We’ve all done a pretty good job in that area in the last couple years."

Team Scope:

Kings: With two capable goaltenders at his disposal, Murray is starting Jonathan Bernier against the Wild, while Jonathan Quick will go against the Oilers in Edmonton on Wednesday. Bernier, 22, has a 3.08 goals-against average in 14 appearances this season.

"I guess I could have gone with Quick in both games, but I think that would be pretty demanding right now, with the travel," Murray told "I talked to Bernier about four days before the last game, actually, and let him know that he was going to be playing in this game. Quick went back to the East Coast, took his family back, and had a little more travel. Bernie was staying in L.A., just getting rested and getting ready to get going. So that was the reason for it, quite honestly. That was the reasoning behind it. I really felt that I had to share the two games on the back-to-back, and that was the reason for it."

Wild: Minnesota entered the All-Star break in winning fashion as it pulled out a 4-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks last Tuesday at the United Center. It was the Wild's 14th road victory this season -- one more than all of last season. They are 11-11-2 at home and 14-8-3 away.

"We've been a really strong team at home in our building. This year it's been the other way around," goaltender Niklas Backstrom said. "We want to be better at home, but it doesn't matter where you take the point."

Who's Hot: Kings forward Ryan Smyth has two goals and two assists in his last three games. … Backstrom is 2-1-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage in his last three contests, while forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard has five points in as many games.
Injury Report: Los Angeles will be without Scott Parse (hip) and Marco Sturm (knee). … Minnesota is missing Marco Scandella (concussion), Marek Zidlicky (shoulder), Guillaume Latendresse (groin), Josh Harding (ACL/MCL) and James Sheppard (knee).

Stat Pack: Kings center Anze Kopitar has only one goal in his last 16 games. … Backstrom is 2-4-1 with a 3.27 GAA in his last seven starts on home ice, but he hasn't played there since Dec. 31.

Puck Drop: "I watched the skills the night before, and I did watch the majority of the game. Kopi had a good game. It was typical of an All-Star Game, I guess. There was a lot of finesse skill, not a lot on the checking part of the game. He played good." -- Kings coach Terry Murray on Anze Kopitar

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