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Kings-Wild Preview @NHLdotcom
Kings-Wild Preview

GAME: Los Angeles Kings (30-21-5) at Minnesota Wild (27-24-4).

TIME: Tuesday, 8 p.m. EST.

The Los Angeles Kings are fading at just the right time for the Minnesota Wild.

Minnesota tries to close the gap in the Western Conference playoff picture when the teams meet for the second time this season.

Los Angeles, which has lost five straight for the first time since dropping its final 11 games of the 2003-04 season, has dominated the Wild on the road in the series.

The Kings are 4-1-0 with three ties against Minnesota at the Xcel Energy Center, and suffered their only loss, 4-3, in the first meeting there Dec. 22, 2000. Since that initial matchup at St. Paul, Los Angeles has allowed nine goals in the seven road meetings.

Minnesota, in 10th place in the conference with 58 points, trails the seventh-seeded Kings by seven points with one game in hand. Colorado is holding down the eighth and final playoff spot with 64 points.

In a 6-4 win over Phoenix on Saturday, Wes Walz had two goals and two assists for his first career four-point game and Marian Gaborik also scored twice to help the Wild improve to 7-3 in the last 10 games.

The six goals tied Minnesota's season high and are the most it has scored on the road since an 8-2 win over Chicago on March 25, 2004. More importantly, the victory leapfrogged the Wild past the 11th-seeded Coyotes in the conference standings.

"It was a very big win," Gaborik said. "We battled toward the end, got some breaks and scored some goals."

Gaborik, whose 22 goals are second on the team to Brian Rolston's 23, has five goals and an assist during a four-game goal streak. He has nine goals in his last 10 contests.

The 23-year-old right wing has eight goals and five assists in 15 games against the Kings.

Los Angeles led the Pacific Division by four points over Dallas on Jan. 5, but has gone 3-7-3 since and trails the division-leading Stars by double digits.

Mathieu Garon had 31 saves and Alexander Frolov scored his 19th goal, but the Kings lost 2-1 in a shootout to the Coyotes on Thursday.

Garon, 2-5-3 in his last 10 decisions following a five-game winning streak, was unable to stop Steve Reinprecht's backhander in the sixth round of the shootout.

The Kings pressured Phoenix goaltender Curtis Joseph late, totaling 15 shots in the third period and 35 overall, but dropped to 2-16-1 when scoring two goals or less.

"We certainly had our chances to win the hockey game in the third period and in overtime," Kings coach Andy Murray said.

Los Angeles is 7-5-0 with five ties in the series with Minnesota.

STANDINGS: Kings - 65 points, 2nd place, 12 PB, Pacific Division. Wild - 58 points, 5th place, 11 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Kings - Pavol Demitra, 20 goals; Lubomir Visnovsky, 38 assists; Craig Conroy, 53 points; Sean Avery, 195 PIM. Wild - Rolston, 23 goals, 34 assists and 57 points; Derek Boogaard, 113 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kings - Power play: 15.2 percent (57 for 374), 25th in NHL. Penalty killing: 79.3 percent (279 for 352), 26th. Wild - Power play: 17.2 percent (53 for 308), 18th. Penalty killing: 88.8 percent (271 for 305), 1st.

GOALTENDERS: Kings - Garon (21-13-3, 2 SO, 2.89 GAA); Jason LaBarbera (9-8-2, 3.21). Wild - Manny Fernandez (22-8-3, 1, 2.16); Dwayne Roloson (5-16-1, 1, 3.00).

SEASON SERIES: Kings, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 9; Kings 2-1, OT. At Los Angeles, Demitra scored on a 40-foot wrist shot with 1:29 left in overtime and Garon made 24 saves.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Kings - 13-12-4 on the road; Wild - 16-11-1 at home.

Associated Press
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