A four-day break in the schedule this week will allow the Wild to package valuable rest with practice time but at the expense of not being able to continue to accrue points.
The team’s competition, however, will be able to close the gap on the Wild during that layoff, a reality that makes the game Monday against the Kings at Xcel Energy Center even more important.
“Anytime we're not playing, other teams are gaining,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “This seems to be the year when there's 10 teams in the race, so, I mean, somebody is winning. You have to do it when you can. I know L.A. is in the exact same boat as we are, so it should make for an interesting game.”
From its perch in the third spot in the Central Division, the Wild had a three-point edge over the Avalanche and a five-point lead over the Stars. Each team will play twice before the Wild resumes action Saturday.
Los Angeles should be just as desperate as the Wild; it’s in a playoff position, sitting in the second wild-card spot. But like with the Wild, nothing is guaranteed yet.
“It's the one team I've coached more against than any other team,” Boudreau said, referring his former days behind Anaheim’s bench. “We are up against a really hard-working team that plays the right way. If the goals are going in, then they're really difficult to beat. If they're not going in, then it's usually a very close game. So if we're not playing right for 60 minutes, we'll be up against it.”
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Nino Niederreiter
Tyler Ennis-Matt Cullen-Charlie Coyle
Marcus Foligno-Joel Eriksson Ek-Daniel Winnik
Ryan Suter-Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin-Ryan Murphy
Nick Seeler-Nate Prosser
4: Straight home wins for the Wild over the Kings.
54: Points on home ice for the Wild, which is tied for the most in the NHL.
38: Goals for center Eric Staal, which is tied for the second-most goals in a season in team history.
20: Road wins for Los Angeles, tied for fourth in the NHL.
84.1: Percent efficiency on the penalty kill for the Kings.
About the Kings:
The Kings are in the race for one of the Western Conference’s playoff berths, currently sitting in the second wild-card position. After a terrific start to the season, the Kings have been more up and down of late. Los Angeles is 2-2-1 in its last five games, with its most recent game a 3-0 loss to New Jersey at home. Captain Anze Kopitar leads the team in goals (29), assists (51) and points (80). Goalie Jonathan Quick boasts a .922 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average.