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The Wild returns home to face the Kings, who are fighting for their playoff lives

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Minnesota is coming off of a gigantic two-game road trip, and now has just one game against Los Angeles before a four-day hiatus.

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

MINNESOTA WILD VS LOS ANGELES KINGS
7:00PM Central, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota
TV: NBCSN
Radio: KFAN 100.3 and affiliates
Streaming: NBC Sports app

When the ’17-’18 regular season ends, Minnesota’s recent two-game road trip through various desert locations may very well be the reason that the Wild ends up making the playoffs. Now with just ten games remaining, coming home from Vegas and Arizona with four out of a possible four points will likely prove gigantic for the Wild’s playoff hopes and positioning when it’s all said and done.

Nobody is supposed to win in Vegas, but with Alex Stalock in net, the Wild did just that in impressive fashion Friday. On the flipside, everybody is supposed to win in Arizona, but this has proven difficult for the Wild this season. And though the team looked sloppy for long stretches of Saturday’s game in Glendale, Devan Dubnyk stepped back in and shut Arizona down just long enough for the unsung Marcus Foligno to notch the game winner.

Now the Wild comes home, where it has treated its fans to 24 wins in 36 attempts on the year. Riding a new wave of positivity, Minnesota plays tonight against the Kings, and then has four days off before grinding out three games in four days against the Predators, Bruins, and then Predators again.

Two additional points added to Minnesota’s collection this evening would help ease a lot of minds in the State of Hockey as the Wild heads into a four-day hiatus.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

The Kings are in a playoff position, but it’s a precarious one. Now trailing the Anaheim Ducks by two points for the third spot in the Pacific, LA is currently level with the falling Dallas Stars, who are technically on the outside of the playoff bubble presently. Needless to say, the Kings are desperate and fighting for their playoff lives.

In February, Jeff Carter returned from a lacerated tendon in his ankle that kept him out of the lineup for 55 games. Like Minnesota’s Zach Parise, his ramping back up to full speed has been a slow process, but getting a guy like Carter back for the last month and change is a huge boon.

There’s no question that Los Angeles is still a very good team, with guys like Drew Doughty (51 points), Anze Kopitar (80 points), and Carter leading its star-studded roster. But this club has seemed to have a hard time stringing things together for stretches this season, ever since a hot start in October. Still, as we’ve seen from the core of this team before, if the Kings can just sneak into the playoffs—even as the last wild card—you never know what they might accomplish.

The Kings have gone 6-3-1 in their last ten, but are coming off of a 3-0 home loss to the New Jersey Devils. The last time these teams faced each other, Marian Gaborik torched the Wild. He, fortunately, has since been traded.

STORYLINES

Following the game in Arizona, it was reported by Michael Russo of The Athletic that Dubnyk was upset he didn’t get the start in Las Vegas. But you know something? Bruce Boudreau absolutely made the right call by resting his star netminder that night. As it has been mentioned in this space over the last few Previews, I believe it was a huge error in judgment to play Dubnyk for both games of last weekend’s back-to-back road series. The Wild paid for the decision with two straight losses, as Dubnyk looked less sharp than usual in Edmonton and at home against Colorado.

It was no coincidence that after resting for Friday’s game—and perhaps receiving a bit of a kick in the pants by his coach—Dubnyk looked as sharp as ever against the Coyotes to finally earn his elusive 200th career win. There’s simply nothing to be upset about for Dubnyk in this scenario, as you have a backup goalie very specifically for these back-to-back situations. With the stretch run very much in progress, now is not the time to try to force Dubnyk into every single game. Now, we have every reason to believe that we will once again see a locked-in Dubnyk tonight. Good call, Bruce.

It is worth noting that Minnesota has had a bit of a hard time in games before it has had breaks this season. Prior to Christmas, Minnesota lost two in a row against Florida and Tampa Bay. Heading into its bye week in January, Minnesota lost at home to Vancouver. Rolling into the All-Star Break, the Wild got smoked in Pittsburgh. So, with the team potentially looking forward to a nice (and somewhat random) four-day break, let’s hope that the need to extend its precious three-point lead over the Avalanche is enough to motivate this team tonight.

Is this the night that Jason Zucker pots his 30th of the season? Eric Staal is also two goals shy of 40... Could he reach that impressive plateau as well?

INJURIES

No Jared Spurgeon, no Luke Kunin.

The LA Kings are fully healthy at a really good time to be fully healthy.

The Gamethread will post at 6:30PM Central. Below are the projected lineups, thanks to DailyFaceoff.com.