After struggling mightily for weeks, the Los Angeles Kings entered the All-Star break on a positive note, reeling off three straight wins.
The resulting confidence could be short-lived with their longest road trip of the season about to begin.
The Kings embark on a season-high 10-game trip Tuesday night when they visit a Minnesota Wild team that also went into the break playing some of its best hockey.
While the Grammys and the NBA’s All-Star weekend occupy Staples Center, Los Angeles (27-22-1) will spend the next three weeks on the road before returning home to play the Wild (25-19-5) on Feb. 24. The Kings, who are 5-8-0 in their last 13 road games, played 11 of their final 14 games prior to the break on home ice.
Los Angeles didn’t take full advantage of that stretch, losing 10 of 12 before rallying to beat Phoenix, Boston and San Jose to move within one point of the eighth-place Sharks in the Western Conference.
Alexei Ponikarovsky(notes) tied Wednesday’s eventual 3-2 shootout victory over San Jose with a goal in the third period, setting the stage for Jarret Stoll(notes) to score the only goal of the tiebreaker.
Quick posted a 1.62 goals-against average with a shutout in the Kings’ final three games before the break, but had a sloppy performance in Los Angeles’ last game against the Wild, a 3-2 overtime loss Dec. 11. He made 18 saves but also had two stick-handling blunders leading to Minnesota goals.
Quick stopped 20 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory at Minnesota on Oct. 25.
More production from All-Star Anze Kopitar(notes) would likely help jump-start Los Angeles’ offense, which totaled two goals during a three-game skid immediately preceding the current winning streak. Kopitar has 16 goals and a team-best 49 points, but just one goal in his last 16 games.
The Wild won four of five prior to the All-Star break and are currently tied with the Kings, but must play better at home.
The Wild are 4-6-1 at the Xcel Energy Center since the start of December, and 11-11-2 on the season. They had 12 regulation losses at home in all of 2009-10.
“We’ve been a really strong team at home in our building. This year it’s been the other way around,” Niklas Backstrom(notes) said after making 31 saves in last Tuesday’s 4-2 victory at Chicago. “We want to be better at home.”
Backstrom is 2-4-1 with a 3.27 GAA in his last seven starts in St. Paul, but hasn’t played there since New Year’s Eve. He missed the first three weeks of January with a hip injury before going 2-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA and one shutout in his return to the lineup.
Backstrom stopped 32 shots in the October loss to the Kings.