7 Things To Watch For Tonight On NBC Sports Network
WILD (38-26-11) at KINGS (44-25-6)
7:00PM PT, TV: NBC SPORTS NETWORK; RADIO: AM 1150
WILD FINISH: This is the third and final meeting with the Minnesota Wild this season. Each team has won in a shootout in the opponent’s building through the first two contests; the Kings winning 3-2 in the season opener on October 3 at XCEL Energy Center, the Wild winning 2-1 on January 7 at STAPLES Center.
BRYZ CHEESE: Ilya Brygalov is expected to start in net for the Wild tonight; he’ll be the third goaltender (Backstrom, Kuemper) the Kings have faced in three games against Minnesota this season. Traded to Minnesota on March 4, Bryzgalov saw the Kings in an Edmonton Oilers uniform on December 17, making 37 saves in the Kings’ 3-0 win. Can the Kings beat Ilya twice in one season, in two different uniforms?
MINNESOTA & MARIAN: Marian Gaborik was drafted third overall by Minnesota in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, and played eight seasons in a Wild uniform. Gaborik has played in four games against the Wild since his departure in the summer of 2009, two with the New York Rangers, two with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gaborik has two points (1G, 1A) in those meetings, going 3-1-0 against his former team. Gaborik has four points (1G, 3A) in the Kings’ past three games.
PLAY IT OUT NOW: Despite being 14-3-0 in their previous 17 games, while riding a six-game win streak, the Kings are likely destined for the third spot in the Pacific Division; nine points behind the San Jose Sharks, and 10 points ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes. They’re playing arguably their best hockey of the season, though. Can they continue to do so with no monumental effects on the line?
MINNESOTA WILD-CARD: They’re playing for something here. The Wild come into tonight’s contest holding the West’s first wild-card spot with 87 points. Minnesota’s only real threat is the Dallas Stars, who sit four points behind with 83, but with one game in-hand on the Wild. After making the postseason for the first time since 2008 last year, Minnesota is rejuvenated, and financed, to make sure a playoff berth is clinched. Can the Kings add a bit of friction to their quest tonight?
BUBBLE VISION: The Kings play the two teams, Minnesota (tonight) and Phoenix (Wednesday), which own the Western Conference’s two wild-card spots in their next two games. The Wild beat the Coyotes 3-1 with three third period goals at Jobing.com Arena Saturday, giving them a three-point cushion on Phoenix in the standings. The Kings, tonight and Wednesday, should be prepared for the best of efforts from both clubs.
FROM THE LAND OF LAKES: Minnesota’s previous visit to Los Angeles was just the start of the Kings’ January woes. With 40 shots fired on Darcy Kuemper on January 7 at STAPLES Center, the Kings could muster just one goal; Jarret Stoll’s marker in the opening minute of the third period.
Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter would tie the game three minutes after Stoll’s goal, and seal the game for the Wild in the fourth-round of the shootout.
STOLL GOES WILD
WE’RE DOING IT LIVE: Catch KINGS LIVE on FOX SPORTS WEST at 6:30, but the live play-by-play broadcast can only be viewed on NBC Sports Network at 7:00 PM PST.