Minnesota Wild (12-11-4) vs. Kings (16-10-0) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. A December to remember? – The month of December hasn’t been particularly kind to the Kings. Their franchise-best record during that span is 9-5-1 in 2005, which happens to be their worst best record for any month. Anybody recall the eight-game losing streak in December 2007? They’re skating against the grain this month, however, owning a 3-0 record heading into their game against the Wild. A victory would be just the right shove-off for their five-game road trip beginning Monday in Detroit.
2. A pleasant surprise – Anybody who has watched rookie defenseman Alec Martinez play this season must wonder why it took so long to for him to become a regular NHL player. He skates with speed, power and grace, has a slap shot that could splinter a redwood and plays with the confidence and intelligence of a 10-year veteran. Kings coach Terry Murray acknowledged Friday that Martinez has been one of the biggest surprises this season.
3. Scoring slump? What scoring slump? – With three game-winning goals in the last three games, Anze Kopitar is back on pace to match last season’s scoring totals. In 26 games this season, he has a team-high 11 goals and 25 points. Last season, he had a career-high 34 goals and 81 points in 82 regular-season games. What’s more impressive with his scoring totals, Kopitar has played with seven different left wings this season.
4. A few good numbers – The Kings have won their last three games by one goal, improving their record in one-goal games to 8-2-0 this season. Among those wins is a 3-2 shootout victory at Minnesota on Oct. 25. Another good sign is when the Kings score the first goal. They’re 12-2-0 this season when taking a 1-0 lead. Even better, they’ve won all eight games in which they’ve lead after two periods.
5. Not a Wild time – The Wild are under pressure to start winning games. They beat Phoenix, 3-2, on Thursday night to end a five-game losing streak but according to media reports, the locker room has been a ball of anxiety lately, while coach Todd Richards has been remarkably upbeat. Beating the Kings will be made even tougher if Matt Cullen can’t play. The team’s third-leading scorer is dealing with a groin injury and Richards told reporters he is doubtful to play against the Kings.