Kings/Wild: Did Somebody Say Defense? [Game #61 Preview]
Kings Roster Notes: (IN) Jonathan Bernier (.904 SV%, 2.72 GAA) looks to avenge his 1-0 shootout loss to Minnesota. He has a .942 SV% in his last five games. Alexei Ponikarovsky is back on the fourth line. (OUT) Kevin Westgarth, Alec Martinez, Peter Harrold (healthy scratches); Scott Parse (hip).
Wild Roster Notes: (IN) Niklas "yet another great Finn goalie" Backstrom (.929 SV%, 2.24 GAA) will be in net. Nate Prosser and Jared Ortmeyer were called up from the AHL. (OUT) Captain Mikko Koivu is out with a broken finger. Kyle Brodziak did not travel with the team due to illness. For more info, check out Russo's blog and Hockey Wilderness.
The Kings are 1-0-2 against Minny this year, with all three games being decided either in a shootout or OT. Both teams rely heavily on goaltending and defense, and it would be no surprise if both clamped down again this time around. However, the Kings will need to turn in a tighter performance than the one which secured a sloppy victory last night if they want to grab the #5 spot from them. The Wild are hard-working and tight-knit -- just because Koivu is out, don't expect them to give an inch. Like the Kings, they have an incredible record at holding on to leads going into the third period (22-0-1 vs. 18-0-0). Let's not give them one.
Players to keep an eye on: Martin Havlat (the Wild's current point leader) has 3 goals in the last 3 games. Justin Williams has 2 goals and 7 assists in the last 9. In addition, our defensive defensemen are now well on their way to blossoming into scoring dynamos. Scuds, Greene, and Mitchell ought to place bets on who will make it to 4 goals first. Way to go, secret weapons!
Now please go score some goals for Bernier, and rock the retro purple. These two games in hand against Phoenix and SJ need to count.