What is Wild coach Bruce Boudreau looking for from his team’s upcoming West Coast road trip?
“Six points,” as the coach rather bluntly put it.
The Wild embark on a California adventure starting 9 p.m. Tuesday at the LA Kings (17-8-3 for tops in the Pacific Division). The squad has a day off Wednesday but then faces the Anaheim Ducks (11-11-5) at 9 p.m. Friday before finishing the swing 8 p.m. Sunday the San Jose Sharks (14-9-2).
Center Anze Kopitar and winger Dustin Brown lead the Kings with 31 points and 23 points, respectively. And Boudreau said he feels like those two players and connecting better than ever this season, which might have something to do with new coach John Stevens.
“I coached Brownie when he was young, and he’s playing the same way right now. And when he’s like that, that’s a force,” Boudreau said. “And then when Kopitar is playing like he is, he’s more than a force. He’s as good as there is in the league in that position, and he’s got a lot of pride. And I do believe that he signed the big ticket last year … and he’s certainly earning it.”
Boudreau said this incarnation of the Kings reminds him of the team that won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup back in 2011-12: a hard-working, heavy team that plays at a pace not many can match.
The Wild will need to pick up its defense in order to keep up with Los Angeles, especially after this past Saturday’s 2-1 overtime victory against the St. Louis Blues that saw the Blues outshoot the Wild 42-25.
“It’s human nature to want to score. It’s a lot more fun to play offense than it is playing defense in any sport,” Boudreau said. “But defense wins, and when you get away from that, you might have a lot of individual success, but you’re going to lose 6-5 and 6-4. And you’re thinking you’re in the games, but you’re cheating the games when you’re doing that.”
Boudreau said ideally, his team would come out on top of 2-1 games while allowing fewer than 25 shots and 10 scoring chances. But he recognizes that’s a difficult feat in this league with so many talented players.
The only two players not skating Monday at St. Thomas Ice Arena were forward Zach Parise and defenseman Jared Spurgeon, both recovering from back and groin injuries, respectively.
Otherwise, here were the lines. Nothing out of the ordinary:
Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker
Nino Niederreiter, Eric Staal, Marcus Foligno
Daniel Winnik, Charlie Coyle, Chris Stewart
Tyler Ennis, Matt Cullen, Zack Mitchell
I’ve got several videos over on my Twitter, so check them out to hear from Boudreau, Cullen, Coyle and defenseman Nate Prosser.