It's official. Riding high on an eight-game win streak, the Minnesota Wild sit near the top of the NHL's and will be punching down in any match against a Western Conference opponent for the time being.
Tonight, they will get the chance to extend that streak — and dominance — against a struggling Los Angeles Kings team in their home arena.
The Kings are 3-5-2 in their last ten games and are getting decent contributions from some of their recent additions in that stretch.
Viktor Arvidsson, who they acquired from the Nashville Predators, has three goals and five assists in that span. Ex-Toronto Maple Leaf, defenceman Sean Durzi, has notched a goal and four assists in his first seven games with the team. But it's the usual suspects providing stability and scoring to the team.
Anze Kopitar is starting to look like an ageless wonder at age-34, leading the way for the team on both ends of the ice with 24 points in 25 games while retaining his usual defensive acumen. Noted petulant child, Drew Doughty, has only played in nine games this season but has provided two goals and nine assists in his brief appearance.
The Kings are still a bad team looking to rebound quickly — in terms of roster construction — by filling in the roster with bright-future youngsters. While the aforementioned Durzi, as well as Arthur Kaliyev, Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte, gestate into what will likely prove to be a dangerous young group, the Kings are going to mire in mediocrity and go game-to-game trying to be "hard to play against."
That's probably the reason for having teething toddler Brendan Lemieux in the lineup. Don't worry, Kirill Kaprizov is safe from the chewer, who is still serving his suspension for the biting incident with Brady Tkachuk of the Ottawa Senators.
As for the Wild, the eight-game winning streak is the cherry on top of a perfect run in December. They have outscored opponents 17-8 this month while rocking a gaudy 81.3% on the penalty kill and a surprisingly acceptable 28.6% on the powerplay (good for ninth in the league). This string of dominance is built on the performances of the players you expect to perform.
Kaprizov has five goals and nine assists during the eight-game winning streak. Hartman's Ovechkin-like goal-scoring pace has slowed down, but he still has a goal and five assists in his last five games. Zuccarello has three goals and five assists in six games since returning from his hand injury.
But it's the reunification of the GREEF line that has spurred on a whole new gear for the team. While first-line center, Joel Eriksson Ek, was perfectly fine, once he found himself back on the line with Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno, his presence unlocked his linemates games. Greenway has been playing like the best version of himself and has four goals and two assists during the streak. Foligno has four goals and an assist.
Everything is chugging along.
Puck drop is at 9:30 pm.
Let's make it nine.
Can the Wild take advantage of the Kings' foul penalty kill?
Immovable object, meet unstoppable force. Or whatever the opposite of that is. The Kings have the league's 27th-ranked penalty and face the 23rd-ranked powerplay with the Wild. It's a showdown of the worst of the worst.
Can the GREEF line continue to roll?
With six points in the last eight games, seeing Jordan Greenway succeed is a big win. But he isn't the only one succeeding on that line. Marcus Foligno's growth from defensive stalwart and locker-room leader to 30-goal scorer is powered by this line's effectiveness. Can they continue the hot streak against the Kings tonight?