Who: Los Angeles Kings (9-6-3) at Minnesota Wild (10-6-0)
Puck drop: 7:08 p.m. CT
Watch: FOX Sports North, FOX Sports App
Listen: KFAN FM 100.3, Wild Radio Network, Wild NHL App
Follow: @mnwild, @mnwildscribe; GameCenter
The Wild Warmup is presented by Bryant Heating and Cooling
For the first time in nearly a month, the Wild will host a West Division rival on home ice on Friday night when it plays the Los Angeles Kings at Xcel Energy Center.
Minnesota hasn't played a home game since Jan. 31, when it won 4-3 in overtime against Colorado on a goal by Jonas Brodin. That victory concluded a six-game homestand that saw the Wild go 3-3-0.
The following week, after a loss in Colorado, half the Wild's roster ended up on the COVID-19 protocol list and the team's season was paused for two weeks.
It returned by playing its next five games on the road, winning each of its past four games following a 4-0 loss to the same Kings team that returns to Minnesota this weekend.
Between the Wild's four-game winning streak and the Kings' six-game win streak, the game on Friday matches up two of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League.
Minnesota is coming off a pair of 6-2 victories, winning in Colorado on Wednesday night and in San Jose on Monday. Before that, the Wild swept two games in Anaheim. Over its past three games, Minnesota has outscored its opponents by a combined score of 17-5.
Eleven different payers have scored goals for Minnesota during those three games, a stretch that moved the Wild one point clear of the Avalanche in the West Division standings, but keeps them one point behind both Los Angeles and Arizona for the third and fourth spots in the division.
Minnesota does have two games in hand on L.A. and three on Arizona, however, games that will become even more valuable should the Wild have success against those teams in particular.
Between this weekend's back-to-back games against the Kings and two matchups with the Coyotes in Arizona next week, four of MInnesota's next six games will come against those clubs.
But before the Wild can worry about that, it must try and buck a long-time trend of teams struggling in their first game back at home from long road trips.
The Wild did secure a 4-1 win in its home opener this season following a four-game trip to start the season.
Rookie forward Kirill Kaprizov will bring a three-game points streak into the game, having scored two points in each of those games. He leads the club with 11 assists and 15 points in 16 games this season.
Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman are each riding four-game points streaks, and with a point on Friday, Zuccarello would establish a new career long in that regard.
Despite playing in just five games, Zuccarello is already tied with Hartman for fourth on the club in scoring with nine points. Zuccarello has scored the Wild's first goal in three straight games.
Coach Dean Evason will have a decision on his hands in goal on Friday. Kaapo Kahkonen started each of the five games on the trip, as he filled in for Cam Talbot (COVID-19 list) on the front end, and had earned his playing time by his play at the end.
Kahkonen finished with a 4-1-0 record, a .934 save percentage and a 1.82 goals-against average on the road trip.
Whether Kahkonen or Talbot starts on Friday, the other would figure to go on Saturday.
The Kings have also gotten stellar goaltending from each of its netminders of late.
After a tough start to its season, veteran Jonathan Quick has two shutouts in his past three starts, a stretch that began with a 28-save blanking of the Wild on Feb. 16. Quick then stopped 20 of 22 shots in a win against Arizona before shutting out St. Louis on 31 shots his last time out on Monday night.
Cal Petersen has been more consistent over the course of the season and is himself coming off a 35-save effort in a 2-1 win in St. Louis on Wednesday. Both goalies have won each of their past three starts, having allowed two goals or fewer in all six of those games.
Offensively, the Kings are led by their veteran core of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty.
Kopitar leads the team and the West Division with 17 assists and 21 points while Brown's 11 goals is more than any other player in the division.
The games this weekend mark the end of a six-game road trip for the Kings.