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Game Day Preview #73, Los Angeles Kings @ Minnesota Wild

Hello road trip!

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Los Angeles Kings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (39-27-5) @ Minnesota Wild (41-24-7)

Game Time: 5:00 PM, NCBSN

The Kings hit the road for their last trip of any significance — outside of this week, their only other away game is at Anaheim at the end of the month — and there are some big points on the line.

Okay, let’s face it, every game is “big points”, until either the Kings lock up a playoffs spot, or the teams below them fall away. (Dallas is tied in points, St. Louis got tired of tanking and is one point back, and though Calgary is fading down the stretch, it wouldn’t take much of a surge for them to make up four points’ difference.)

The Wild have won six of ten to help them lock up the third seed in the Central, including an 8-3 win over St. Louis and an impressive 4-2 win in Vegas, with backup netminder Alex Stalock between the pipes for that one. If there’s a weakness in the Wild’s armor, it’s that most of their six wins haven’t come against playoff teams, and they’ve had just as many lopsided losses go towards them (7-1 and 5-1 losses to Colorado, a 4-1 loss to Edmonton).

The Wild are mostly fully healthy, missing only Jared Spurgeon and rookie Luke Kunin, who played two games before going down with a season-ending ACL injury. And they’re backstopped by the almost always reliable Devan Dubnyk, who is 7-5-1 against the Kings in his career. The last time these teams met, the Kings seemed to have him figured out, as the Kings exploded for four third-period goals in a comeback win.

At least he hit a milestone on some other night, so that’s out of the way.

After an uninspired performance against the Devils on Saturday, John Stevens has shuffled his lines, leaving Alex Iafallo on the outside looking in tonight. Scratching Iafallo in favor of shifting your lines around to get Andy Andreoff in seems bizarre, as does elevating Tobias Rieder to the top line when he hasn’t done much with previous chances there.

Paul LaDue is swapped out for Christian Folin, given that LaDue’s played his allotted one monthly game or whatever. Putting Folin back in for his return to Minnesota is a nice touch, though. He’s familiar with the Wild and may be able to contribute more tonight.

Look, the practice lines from this morning are just weird, okay? I woke up from a nap and looked them up and thought I was still napping.

But after getting shut-out in a crucial game, you all knew changes were coming, right?

It’s a little bit of message-sending, a little bit of rotating in guys who haven’t played in a while. (Sorry, Kevin Gravel, not you, apparently.) And if they win, we’ll be stuck with Third Line Tyler Toffoli for a while.

Here we go.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Rieder - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Carter - Lewis
Clifford - Kempe - Toffoli
Andreoff - Thompson - Mitchell

Forbort - Doughty
Martinez - Phaneuf
Muzzin - Folin

Quick
(Campbell)

Minnesota Wild

Zucker - Staal - Granlund
Parise - Koivu - Coyle
Ennis - Cullen - Niederreiter
Foligno - Eriksson Ek - Winnik

Suter - Dumba
Brodin - Murphy
Seeler - Prosser

Dubnyk
(Stalock)

Opposing Preview: Hockey Wilderness