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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Los Angeles

California swing shifts south as Wild faces Kings in Saturday matinee at Staples Center

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /
The essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild (34-26-7) at Los Angeles Kings (26-35-6)

Puck drop: 3:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North, FOX Sports App

Listen: KFAN FM 100.3, Wild Radio NetworkWild NHL App

Follow: @mnwild, @mnwildscribe; GameCenter

The Wild Warmup is presented by Bryant Heating and Cooling

LOS ANGELES -- The Wild will continue its three-game California road trip on Saturday afternoon when it faces the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.

Minnesota is coming off a 3-2 win on Thursday against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center, a victory which snapped a five-game losing streak to the Sharks and salvaged the three-game season series between the clubs.

Goaltender Alex Stalock made 40 saves, including 19 in the third period, as the Wild moved into the top wild card spot in the Western Conference, entering the top-8 in the standings for the first time since Dec. 6.

Entering the day Friday, the Wild sat idle with 75 points, one more than four clubs: Vancouver, Nashville, Arizona and Winnipeg. The Canucks and Jets each won Friday night, moving Vancouver into the top wild card position and Winnipeg into the second spot. Minnesota has two games in hand on their division rivals, however.

Minnesota did not practice on Friday before a flight down the California coast, choosing instead to rest up after a physical battle with the Sharks and ahead of back-to-back games in SoCal this weekend. The Wild will conclude its western swing Sunday in Anaheim against the Ducks.

Video: Dean Evason postgame at San Jose 

"We learned we can play two different games," said Wild interim coach Dean Evason. "It was such a fast game early and for the first half, and then it turned into such a heavy game. Everyone was competing. You talk about desperation ... both teams were really desperate. It was really good for our group, obviously the result was there, but it was a good thing for our group to compete like that in both ways."

Los Angeles sits last in the Western Conference with 58 points, the second-fewest in the NHL, but that's not indicative of how the Kings have played lately. L.A. has won seven of its past 10 overall, including each of its past four and moved to within four points of both Anaheim and San Jose in the Pacific Division. 

None of the three teams appear destined to reach the postseason, but the prospect of the Kings digging out of last place seemed unlikely even a week or two ago. 

The contest Saturday marks the second game of a marathon nine-game homestand for the Kings, who started it with a 1-0 shootout win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night. 

During its four-game winning streak, the Kings have allowed a total of just three goals. Both goaltenders, Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen have seen action during that stretch, with Quick coming off an impressive 36-save shutout on Thursday. 

For Quick, who has struggled for a bulk of the year, it was his first shutout in his 41st start and just his third in his past 87 starts overall. The two-time Stanley Cup champion has allowed one goal or fewer in four of his past five starts overall dating back to Feb. 15, a major reason for the Kings' recent resurgence. 

That stretch of play has helped pull his save percentage over 90 percent and his goals-against average under 3.

Offensively, Anze Kopitar is in the midst of another strong campaign, posting 20 goals and 59 points in 67 games this season. Former UMD Bulldog Alex Iafallo is second on the club with 40 points, including 16 goals. Veteran centerman Jeff Carter has 17 goals. 

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