November 26, 2014

Consecutive razor-thin wins haven't lessened the Minnesota Wild's margin for error in their quest for a playoff return.

Needing to capitalize on a home-heavy upcoming stretch, the Wild's sense of urgency remains high entering Tuesday night's matchup with the Pacific Division-leading Los Angeles Kings.

Minnesota (34-28-11) stayed right on Colorado's heels in the race for the Western Conference's final wild-card spot with Sunday's 3-2 shootout win at struggling Chicago, one night after it topped Carolina in a shootout by the same score. One point behind the Avalanche, the Wild visit Denver on Saturday in their lone road test over the next five games.

''We've had back-to-back nights of it,'' interim coach John Torchetti said of the consecutive shootout victories. ''It says we want it. Some people question us. Not me. I think we want it.''

Minnesota will play six of its nine remaining regular-season games at Xcel Energy Center, where it's managed just five goals in losing two of its last three. The Wild have just 10 over their last four overall and face a Kings team that's yielded the second-fewest in the NHL (163).

Los Angeles (44-23-5) is coming off a rare defensive clunker, however, opening a three-game trip with Monday's 5-2 defeat to Nashville. The Kings had outscored opponents 16-6 in winning their previous four and have allowed just 29 goals while going 11-3-1 since Feb. 20.

Jonathan Quick, 5-0-1 with a 1.63 goals-against average over his six prior outings, permitted three on 17 shots in the second period and was pulled in favor of Jhonas Enroth to begin the third.

"We just came out flat, we weren't ready to play, and obviously it showed early," said defenseman Drew Doughty, who scored the first of two third-period goals during a failed comeback effort.

Enroth could draw the start with the Kings, four points ahead of second-place Anaheim in the Pacific and one behind Dallas for the West lead, playing on consecutive nights. He sports a solid 2.03 GAA for the season but has struggled against the Wild, allowing 20 goals in losing four straight meetings, the most recent a 6-2 defeat in Saint Paul with Dallas on Feb. 22, 2015.

Minnesota will be counting on another sharp performance from Devan Dubnyk, who had 29 saves before thwarting all three shootout attempts against Chicago. He recorded 31 against Carolina the previous night to bounce back from Thursday's 7-4 loss at New Jersey, in which he stopped only 5-of-8 attempts before being removed late in the first period.

"You just want to play well," Dubnyk told the Wild's official website. "My job and my focus is to go out there and give these guys a good feeling, and a good chance to win every game."

Charlie Coyle, the Wild's leader with 21 goals, has gone nine straight without one but scored in both recent shootouts. Nino Niederreiter has four over a five-game point streak, however, and eight in his last 15 games.

Los Angeles' Anze Kopitar extended his point streak to six games with two assists in Monday's loss. The standout center scored the game-winner in a 2-1 overtime win over Minnesota at Staples Center on Oct. 16.

Coyle and Erik Haula, also on a five-game point streak, had goals to support Darcy Kuemper's 32 saves in the Wild's 3-0 victory at Los Angeles on Jan. 21.

You May Like