After shutting down two of the Western Conference’s best offenses in consecutive nights, the Minnesota Wild will try to contain one of the worst for the first time this season.
The Wild also try for their longest winning streak in more than three months when they host Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
Following a 5-2 home victory Saturday evening over Detroit, Minnesota (30-24-4) won 2-1 Sunday night in Chicago with backup goaltender Josh Harding making a career-high 44 saves.
“Harding was fantastic,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire told the team’s official Web site. “Some of the saves he made, I don’t know how he made them, but he did. That’s the bottom line.”
While the Red Wings have a league-best 222 goals, the Blackhawks’ 192 ranks third in the West and fifth in the NHL. The Kings, meanwhile, have 152, ahead of only Minnesota (147) and Nashville (138) in the conference.
However, Los Angeles has scored eight times in two wins this season against the Wild. All-Star Niklas Backstrom started both games for Minnesota and was pulled in the previous meeting Jan. 20 - a 5-2 home loss - after allowing four goals in the first two periods.
Harding’s performance against Chicago and his 2-0-0 career record with a 0.86 goals-against average versus Los Angeles leaves Lemaire with a difficult choice as his team tries for its first three-game win streak since Nov. 13-18. He can stick with Harding or go back to Backstrom, who is among the NHL’s leaders in GAA (2.23) and save percentage (.925) and has a 2-2-1 lifetime record with a 2.08 GAA against Los Angeles.
“It doesn’t look good,” Lemaire said after Sunday’s game.
After playing in 509 consecutive games for the longest streak among active players, Brunette has missed the last two with a knee injury and remains day to day. Brunette is fourth on the Wild with 32 points, and Nolan has 30 with 17 goals.
While the Kings are 1-3-2 in their last six games, they are 7-2-0 away from home since the Jan. 20 victory in Minnesota. Los Angeles (25-24-9) had a five-game road win streak snapped Thursday night against the league’s best home team, San Jose, and suffered a 6-3 home loss Saturday to Phoenix.
“They had more patience than we did and they capitalized on our mistakes,” defenseman Kyle Quincey said after the Phoenix game. “They have good, young, skilled forwards and they showed it today. Around our net, they were more hungry than we were.”
While Minnesota’s goaltenders have shined lately, Jon Quick and Erik Ersberg have struggled. After a 7-1-0 stretch with a 2.60 GAA, Quick is 1-2-1 in his last five starts with a 3.37 GAA, and Ersberg is 0-3-2 in his last five appearances with a 3.19 GAA.
Despite the Kings’ offensive struggles, Dustin Brown is on a five-game point streak with three goals and four assists in that time, and Alexander Frolov has scored in consecutive games and has three goals in his last four as part of a team-best 25.
Los Angeles has never won three straight over Minnesota, and has never taken consecutive wins at the Xcel Energy Center.