Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Kings: Stretch runs begins in Minnesota
By Dan Arritt
Kings (27-22-1, 55 points) vs. Minnesota Wild (25-19-5, 55) at Xcel Energy Center, 5 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Back in the saddle – The All-Star break can be great for some teams but for others it’s like sleeping in until noon on a Saturday. It takes a while to be productive. Both teams resume play deadlocked with 55 points and just one point out of the top eight in the Western Conference. The Wild play nothing but Western Conference opponents this month, while the Kings have a mix of Eastern and Western foes over the next three weeks. Both teams will be looking to resume the season on a winning note.
2. It’s Bernier time – Jonathan Bernier gets the start in goal for the Kings. He hasn’t played since a 2-1 loss to Dallas on Jan. 17, his one-game stint as the No. 1 goalie before Jonathan Quick snatched it back--with his own 2-1 loss. Kings coach Terry Murray explained to a reporter from the Kings’ web site that he was going with Bernier because Quick went home to Connecticut during the All-Star break, while Bernier stayed in Los Angeles. Hmmmm? So if Alexei Ponikarovsky would’ve went home to Russia, he probably would've been scratched for the next week?
3. Missing in action – Nobody’s more relieved to see the calendar turn to February than Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. The top line combo scored one goal each during January. Even rookie Kyle Clifford, who’s best skill is beating up the opponent’s wise guy, scored twice in January. The Kings simply can’t afford to have Kopitar and Brown take another month off in the scoring column.
4. Beat this – The Kings are running away from the league in one particular stat, the fewest overtime losses. They have just one OT loss (the next closest team has three) and that came in their last meeting against Minnesota on Dec. 11, when Brent Burns scored on a power play 2 minutes 50 seconds into the extra period. Power plays were a big part of that game, namely because the Kings had nine of them and only scored once.
5. The newest member – Ryan Smyth of the Kings had the honors earlier this season and tonight it will be Andrew Brunette’s turn. The Wild forward is scheduled to appear in his 1,000th career game. Smyth scored a goal in his milestone game, a 4-1 victory against the Nashville Predators on Nov. 6 at Staples Center. The 37-year-old Brunette comes in on a bit of a hot streak, getting six points in the last six games.