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Wild return home for tough matchup against Kings

Sportsnaut
Apr 8, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Minnesota Wild defenseman Jacob Middleton (5) celebrates with defenseman Jared Spurgeon (46) and left wing Jordan Greenway (18) after scoring against the St. Louis Blues during the third period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings find themselves in a very similar situation heading into their Sunday meeting in Saint Paul, Minn.

The Wild (43-21-6, 92 points) and the Kings (38-25-10, 86 points) have both dropped their past two games.

In addition, both the Wild and Kings find themselves in the midst of a dogfight for second place in their respective divisions. Coincidentally enough, both teams arrive in Minnesota coming off losses to the teams they’re battling to claim home-ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Wild return home after ending a road trip with a 4-3 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Friday, while the Kings open a three-game road swing after dropping a 3-2 clash with the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.

Minnesota’s latest defeat came with the extra sting of blowing a 3-1 third-period lead on the Blues despite possessing the bulk of the play.

“I thought we played great,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We’ve had success in overtime. We messed up in overtime. Their last two goals in regulation, not great goals by us as a team. We didn’t make them earn those three. We have a system in overtime and in our three-on-three, and we didn’t do it and we ended up getting scored on.”

Minnesota finished a difficult four-game road swing with a 2-1-1 record, beating the Carolina Hurricanes and Washington Capitals before falling to the Nashville Predators and ending against St. Louis. Even so, the final result was a missed opportunity, and not just because the Wild were facing the Blues.

“When you get a two-goal lead like that on the road, you hope to close things out,” Wild defenseman Jake Middleton said. “It’s just an unfortunate result to (finish) a pretty good road trip.”

As disappointed as the Wild are, they believe it’s not the time to sound the alarms.

“Unfortunate that we didn’t come out with two points, but I thought we played well,” Minnesota forward Tyson Jost said. “Obviously a couple of things we need to tighten up, but overall, it was a solid effort. It’s just disappointing when you don’t come out with two points.”

The Kings, who sit third in the Pacific Division, have done a fantastic job overcoming a horrid string of injuries. Even with defenseman Matt Roy and forward Brendan Lemieux returning last game, their injured list includes defensemen Drew Doughty, Sean Walker and Mikey Anderson as well as key forwards Dustin Brown and Andreas Athanasiou. Defenseman Alexander Edler also missed the last game, although he is likely to play in Minnesota.

Los Angeles has stayed strong by having nearly everybody consistently playing at their best, but that wasn’t the case against the Oilers, and coach Todd McLellan let his players know it.

“We had some really good performances and we had some average performances,” McLellan said after the Edmonton game. “We were just talking in the coaches room … and when you describe an individual as ‘just OK’ that probably cuts it in November, December, but certainly not in April. We were a little bit short (Thursday) with ‘just OK’ players. They weren’t horrible, but they weren’t quite good enough in certain situations.”

Therefore, the Kings must regain their mojo after dropping consecutive games by 3-2 scores.

“We’re still doing a good job,” Los Angeles forward Viktor Arvidsson said. “We’ve let in three goals, and some are mistakes that we can clean up ourselves. We have to move on and go onto the next one. It’s that time of the year.”

–Field Level Media