I’ve got good news and bad news. Bad news always comes first.
I did a double-take looking at the Los Angeles Kings’ record over the last 10 games. 6-3-1, including the current six-game win streak they are on currently. This Kings team:
But man are they on a roll. Currently in third place in the West Division, they will come into the Xcel Energy Center tonight after beating the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night 2-1. Dustin Brown has nine points in seven games (seven goals, two assists). The goaltending tandem of Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen have been lights out, with only five goals allowed between them in the last five games.
Frankly, this is all unnatural, an affront to God and must be stopped.
Here’s the good news I promised.
The Wild are on a bit of a streak of their own, coming into tonight’s game on a four-win streak. The offense and defense are both clicking, outscoring opponents 20-6 in that four-game span, including a 6-2 walloping of the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night. The return of the Lizard King has let the roster find itself. Mats Zuccarello has an ungodly nine points in five games (three goals, six assists) and his line with Victor Rask and Kirill Kaprizov has looked — dare we say — elite at times.
Nico Sturm scored his first two goals of the season on Wednesday, so the bottom of the lineup may be starting to heat up as well. This could be a major boon for the Wild, as Ryan Hartman has looked steady in the third-line center role and if Sturm can get going, his line with the two Nicks, Bjugstad and Bonino, can be the bum-slaying fourth line no on asked them to be.
Cam Talbot will reportedly get the start tonight, his first since Feb. 2. After predicting he would get the start the last two-games, we are sure it happens tonight for real.
Editor’s note: NHL.com’s Jessi Pierce confirms Talbot will be the starter.
While they technically sit below the Kings in the standings, the Wild’s .625 points percentage would actually put them second in the West Division, behind only the Vegas Golden Knights. These two teams are running hot, but only one can keep the streak going tonight. Puck drops at 7:00 p.m. CT.
Can Talbot come back without showing signs of rust?
Unless coach Dean Evason thinks it’s funny to continually mess with us here at Hockey Wilderness, Cam Talbot looks to be the man in between the pipes for tonight’s game. This is also the third preview in a row that we have posed this question. At the moment, Talbot hasn’t play since February 2nd, over three weeks on the shelf.
That’s a long time to not see any action.
The play of Kaapo Kähkönen has made it easier to ease Talbot into things, but maybe it’s best not to run the 24-year old into the ground. That will be a simple goal if Talbot returns to the ice in good form.
Will Nico Sturm build on his two goal performance?
To contribute night-in and night-out may be a tall order for a 25-year old who just scored the first two goals of his career Wednesday night, but Sturm has shown flashes of productivity at the pro-level before. 32 points in 55 games at the AHL level is nothing to sneeze at.
I’m not expecting Sturm to contribute on the score sheet, but driving play, getting shots on net and generating chances are the goal. If Sturm can repeat his last performance, four shots on net and 77 xGF% in ~11 minutes of ice time, the Wild’s bottom-six group will be in good shape.
Can the powerplay do the thing?
Powerplay, powerplay, powerplay. I feel like at least on of the Burning Questions is always dedicated to the powerplay. And rightfully so, as it’s ineptitude has been a running them for this season. But after finding itself successful against the Ducks earlier in the week, the refs only handed the Wild two opportunities against the Avalanche. While they did manage only a measly three shots on those two opportunities, it really doesn’t feel like it was much of an opportunity to really test the special teams. Let’s see if that changes against the eighth-least penalized team in the league.