Wild Gameday Preview: Los Angeles Kings – 10/15/22

The Minnesota Wild are set to welcome the Los Angeles Kings to the Xcel Energy Center tonight to face-off in their second contest of the regular season. Though the Wild appeared defensively unprepared in their loss against the New York Rangers on Thursday, Oct. 13, the Kings seem to be having some troubles of their own. The Kings have yet to register a victory in their first two regular-season games.

Related: Wild’s Penalty Woes Lead to Loss Against Rangers

The Wild won six of their seven preseason games, outscoring the opposition 25-8 in that time. Marco Rossi, the team’s ninth-overall pick in 2020, shined bright, leading the NHL with seven assists and nine total points. However, that electricity and dominating effort didn’t translate to the club’s loss against the Rangers on Thursday. Though there were flashes of offensive brilliance at times, the Wild simply got outmuscled in their own end, and they couldn’t seem to stay out of the penalty box.

Minnesota Wild Projected Lineup

Tonight’s lineup is going to be the same as it was against the Rangers on Thursday. There’s no real reason to put the lines in a blender this early in the season. There were some defensive struggles and too many penalties taken in the season opener, but the club needs an opportunity to bounce back.

Kaprizov – Hartman – Zuccarello
Jost – Eriksson Ek – Foligno
Gaudreau – Steel – Boldy
Dewar – Rossi – Duhaime

Brodin – Spurgeon
Middleton – Dumba
Goligoski – Addison

Fleury – Gustavsson

The Wild’s top line was an absolute force last season, and they’ve shown that they’re not going anywhere by the way they performed against the Dallas Stars in their preseason finale. One major criticism that Dean Evason expressed about Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello is that sometimes they are only looking for each other on the ice. If they’re going to continue to have success, they will need to start looking for other options, moving forward.

Though the Wild came up short in their season opener, one player that surprised was Matt Boldy. Boldy potted two of the club’s three total goals in the game, and they were nothing short of beautiful. If the Wild can continue to squeeze stellar performances out of players that are not in their top line, they are going to have a very successful season. But the consistency has to be there, and on Thursday night, there didn’t appear to be much of that.

Marc-Andre Fleury Minnesota Wild
Marc-Andre Fleury, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

While there were certainly some shortcomings on the defensive side of things, it’s needless to say that Marc-André Fleury had a poor showing. He let in seven of thirty-five shots, ending with a .800 percent save percentage by the end of the night. But again, the poor showing goes back to the lack of defensive effort and execution. Evason, frustrated, mentioned that it wasn’t just defensive-zone play, but it was the entire defensive effort on both sides of the puck (from ‘Russo: Wild’s defensive play ‘awful’ in terrible opening-night loss to Rangers,’ The Athletic, Oct. 14, 2022).

Los Angeles Kings Lineup

The Kings have experienced some woes of their own, which means that they’ll be all the more hungry to leave Xcel Energy Center with a game in the win column. The club is significantly more talented than they’ve been the past few seasons, but they have yet to register a victory in their first two regular-season performances.

Kempe – Kopitar – Fiala
Moore- Danault – Grundstrom
laffallo – Byfield – Vilardi
Lemieux – Lizotte – Kaliyev

Anderson – Doughty
Walker – Roy
Edler – Clarke

Quick – Peterson

Though the Kings still have long-time veterans on the team, such as Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, the club also has some young blood that could serve as the future of the club. The two names that pop out are Kevin Fiala, who was traded to the Kings by the Wild last season, and then there’s Brandt Clarke, the eighth-overall pick by the Kings in 2021.

The Kings also have Phillip Danault, one of the best two-way centers in the league, and one of the many reasons the Montreal Canadiens found such defensive success in their Stanley Cup run in 2021. Danault had some things to say about the Kings’ 4-1 loss to the Seattle Kraken on Thursday night. He said that the club’s passing just hasn’t been there, and it’s not because the team’s not trying. He said that the team needs to sharpen their game all around.

Key Players to Watch

Minnesota Wild – Matt Boldy

The Wild have enjoyed so much success with Kaprizov and Zuccarello that they have won games on their own before. But after the club’s contest against the Rangers, it’s going to be difficult to ignore Boldy, the Wild’s 12th-overall pick in 2019. He potted two impressive goals against a punishing defensive corps. If the Wild’s bottom six are going to find offensive success this season, they will need to get creative, and that’s exactly what Boldy has managed to do.

Boldy has been productive in the past, too. During the 2021-22 season, the right-winger played 47 games, potting 15 goals and racking up 24 assists. He’s a natural producer, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of damage he’s able to do over the course of the season. His hockey IQ and creativity are there, but it’s about making those tools consistent over the course of 82 games.

Los Angels Kings – Kevin Fiala

If the Wild could have kept Fiala without stepping over the salary cap, they would have. The right-winger is immensely talented, and he’s yet to hit the pinnacle of his career. When he was traded to the Kings last year, he immediately signed a seven-year contract with the club, with a $7.875 average annual value. That, alone, should speaks volumes about the caliber of player the Wild traded away.

Fiala will want nothing more than to come into Xcel Energy Center and show the club that traded him that he was worth keeping. Sure, the Kings are struggling, but if there was a game where he was going to come out of the gate, guns blazing, this would be the one. During the 2021-22 season, Fiala had 85 points in 82 games with the Wild, 33 of which were goals. He’s a dangerous offensive player, and the Wild’s defense must find a way to shut him down.

Catch the game on Bally Sports North at 7:00 pm. The Wild are looking to seal up defensive struggles, and the Kings are looking to play more cohesive hockey. This should be a good one.

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