LOS ANGELES - The Wild will have a sixth player make his NHL debut this season, with defenseman Louie Belpedio slated to appear in the regular-season finale Saturday against the Sharks after signing a two-year, entry-level contract Thursday.
He’ll wear No. 47.
“I think I just need to play my game and do what got me here,” Belpedio said. “At the end of the day, it’s hockey, right? Obviously, I’m around the best players in the world now, which makes it a little different. But I just gotta stick to my game and be simple and come every day with an open mind.”
Belpedio met up with the Wild in Los Angeles Thursday, getting on the ice in the morning at Staples Center, but he won’t play later in the evening against the Kings. The Wild will, however, make a lineup change, with center Matt Cullen getting the night off. That means winger Tyler Ennis will draw back in after sitting out Wednesday, a 3-1 loss to the Ducks.
The 21-year-old Belpedio spent the past four seasons at Miami-Ohio, scoring 25 goals and tallying 58 assists in 135 games, before joining the Iowa Wild for the past 10 games on a tryout contract. During that stint, he had two assists.
A third-round choice (80th overall) in the 2014 NHL draft by the Wild, Belpedio could have become a free agent in July if the Wild hadn’t signed him. The first year of his two-year contract will be burned over the final two regular season games this year.
“I obviously had a great four years in college,” Belpedio said. “Going to Iowa definitely helped me get adjusted to the pro game and the pro lifestyle, so it was good. I think it helped me a ton, and not going right from college to here also helped to just get used to everything and get the feel for being a pro now. Just try to take it day by day, enjoy the moment and go from there.”
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Nino Niederreiter
Jordan Greenway-Charlie Coyle-Tyler Ennis
Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Daniel Winnik
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Nick Seeler-Ryan Murphy
Carson Soucy-Nate Prosser
0-1-1: The Wild’s record against the Kings this season.
.919: Save percentage for goalie Alex Stalock in his career against the Kings.
2: Power-play goals for defenseman Matt Dumba in his last four games.
6: Points for Kings defenseman Drew Doughty in two games vs. the Wild this season.
1.14: Points-per-game for captain Anze Kopitar.
About the Kings:
The Kings clinched a playoff spot Wednesday after the Blues lost. They’re currently in the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference with 96 points, one behind the Ducks for the third seed in the Pacific Division. Los Angeles is 3-0-1 in its last four games and is coming off a 3-1 win over Colorado. Kopitar leads the team in goals (35) and points (91). Goalie Jonathan Quick is 32-27-3 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.