Who: Minnesota Wild (29-13-3) at Los Angeles Kings (17-20-6)
Puck drop: 9:08 p.m. CT
Watch: Bally Sports North PLUS, FOX Sports GO 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
Fresh off a two-game sweep of the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena, the Wild's four-game road trip continues on with the first of California back-to-back, Friday night in Los Angeles against the Kings at Staples Center.
Minnesota moves north on Saturday for a final matchup against the San Jose Sharks.
The Wild and Kings became familiar foes early in this truncated campaign, playing half of their eight matchups amongst the first eight games of the season, and seven of those eight by Feb. 27.
That date was the last time these clubs met, as the Wild finished off a two-game sweep of L.A. at Xcel Energy Center.
Minnesota hasn't played at Staples Center since a 4-0 loss to the Kings on Feb. 16, which was the Wild's first game back from a two-week COVID-19 shutdown. A handful of Wild regulars did not play in that game as they continued their recoveries. That contest marked the first of a five-game road trip, which Minnesota would end up winning the final four games on.
That trip was a launching point for the Wild, who have posted a 23-7-3 record since the loss at Staples Center. Over that span, the Wild has grabbed firm control of at least the No. 3 position in the West Division, leading fourth-place Arizona by 16 points (with two games in hand) as of the start of the day Thursday.
The Wild is coming off a 4-1 win against the Coyotes on Wednesday, thanks in large part to a 39-save effort from goaltender Cam Talbot, who held Minnesota in the game during a first-period flurry of offense that saw Arizona build up an 11-1 edge in shots over the first eight minutes of regulation.
Talbot allowed a single power-play goal in the first, but closed the door the rest of the way, allowing the Wild offense to find its groove against a Coyotes club badly needing a win.
"We know that they were a desperate team and they were going to come with a push," Talbot said. "They did just that from the drop of the puck. We weathered the storm, and give our guys lots of credit, we bent [on Wednesday], but we didn't break."
Minnesota should expect a similar desperation from Los Angeles.
Since that win against the Wild in February, the Kings have been unable to gain much traction, and begins the day in seventh place in the West. As of Thursday, the Kings trailed the Coyotes by five points but also had four games in hand.
The issue is, both St. Louis and San Jose stand between the Kings and the Coyotes, so if Los Angeles is to rally and make a late push for the playoffs, they need to rattle off a series of victories.
Over its past 10, the Kings have combined to go 4-6-0, unable to gain ground amongst a group of five struggling clubs battling for the final playoff spot in the division. In fact, Los Angeles' four wins are the most among that group over the past couple of weeks.
Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 34 assists and 44 points in 43 games this season. Seven of those assists have come in seven games against the Wild. Dustin Brown has a team-high 16 goals, three of which have come at the hands of Minnesota. Defenseman Drew Doughty has also had success against the Wild this season, scoring three goals and six points.
The Wild has seen both Kings goaltenders this season, and Calvin Petersen has been the most formidable. The former Notre Dame backstop has a 1-0-1 record with a 2.41 goals -against and a .933 save percentage in two starts, while Quick is 1-2-2 with a goals against of 3.16 and a save percentage of .898 in five games.
With back-to-back games, expect both Wild goaltenders to see action this weekend. Talbot has been sensational in three starts against Los Angeles this season, posting a perfect 3-0-0 mark with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.