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Niederreiter in goal-scoring groove as Wild host Kings

by Dan Myers

KINGS (11-6-5) at WILD (12-8-0)


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Now in his second season with the Minnesota Wild, forward Nino Niederreiter seems to have finally found his groove.

Niederreiter, who has 10 goals this season, including six in his past six games, will look to stay hot Wednesday when the Wild play the Los Angeles Kings at Xcel Energy Center.

Acquired in a trade from the New York Islanders two summers ago, Niederreiter played his first full year in the NHL last season, skating in 81 games and scoring 14 goals and 36 points.

This season, Niederreiter said he's using some adjustments he made over the offseason to increase his goal-scoring.

"I've got to give myself a chance to get more pucks on the net," Niederreiter said. "Even last game, I felt I had a couple of good chances, I'd cut in the middle and shoot, but I missed the net. Those are things I want to work on."

Niederreiter had one goal Monday against the Florida Panthers, taking advantage of a turnover in the neutral zone and scoring on a breakaway in transition. He said he's looked to alter his shooting angle to get more pucks through traffic.

"Defense leads to offense," Niederreiter said. "When we get in the offensive zone and use our strengths down low."

At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Niederreiter is certainly capable of playing a physical game down low. He's one of the team leaders in hits. But his goal Monday was a goal scorer's type of goal, entering the zone on a breakaway and lifting the puck with a quick backhand, reminiscent of teammate Mikko Koivu's go-to shootout move.

Niederreiter was asked Wednesday if he'd been watching Koivu highlights.

"He came up to me after the game and said I owe him a beer," Niederreiter said. "Which is probably right. He does that move so well, I was fortunate enough to get it upstairs that quickly. But he's the king with that move and it definitely helps having him on my team."

Minnesota is expected to go with the same lineup it did in the 4-1 win against Florida on Monday, with Darcy Kuemper getting the nod in goal instead of Niklas Backstrom.

Los Angeles held a team meeting at the arena before a very optional skate following a 4-3 loss Tuesday at the Nashville Predators. The Kings arrived in the Twin Cities around 1 a.m. local time.

Here are the projected lineups:


Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Trevor Lewis

Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli

Dustin Brown - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams

Kyle Clifford - Mike Richards - Tanner Pearson

Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty

Brayden McNabb - Matt Greene

Robyn Regehr - Jamie McBain

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Scratched: Andy Andreoff, Jordan Nolan

Injured: Alec Martinez


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Thomas Vanek - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Charlie Coyle

Ryan Carter - Kyle Brodziak - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Nate Prosser

Keith Ballard - Matt Dumba

Darcy Kuemper

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Stu Bickel

Injured: Matt Cooke (lower body), Jonas Brodin (illness)

Status report: With Jones getting the start Tuesday against the Predators, look for Quick to start against Minnesota. Quick made 40 saves in a 2-1 win against the Wild last month. … Wild coach Mike Yeo said Brodin is getting closer to a return, perhaps as soon as Friday when Minnesota plays at the Dallas Stars. "Isn't quite there as far as his conditioning, but much, much better," Yeo said. "You can just see he looks like a different guy right now. I'd say there is a chance we could have him in for Friday." Yeo said Cooke is on the ice skating, although not in equipment. He is still likely a couple of weeks away, at the earliest, from making his return.

Who's hot: Gaborik has at least one point in three of his past four games, including a goal and an assist against Nashville on Tuesday. … Parise has a goal in each of his past two games and four in his past four games. He leads Minnesota with 14 points in 15 games this season.

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