Kings-Wild Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Kings moved into first place in the Pacific Division with their latest victory. A favorable schedule may help them hang on.

Visiting Los Angeles looks to remain atop the division by defeating the Minnesota Wild for the third time in four tries Saturday night.

The Kings (39-27-12) entered Friday's action in a tie with San Jose for the Western Conference's final playoff spot, one point behind Dallas. Los Angeles defeated Edmonton 4-1 to break the tie with the idle Sharks and move ahead of the Stars, who lost 5-2 to Vancouver later in the night.

Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist, while Jonathan Quick made 13 saves and improved to 7-2-0 with a 1.42 goals-against average over his last nine starts.

The wild Pacific race has teams moving up and down the standings each night, but Los Angeles put itself in control of the division with four games remaining.

''We got the two points. That's what we want,'' coach Darryl Sutter said. ''All of the games are really important right now."

The Kings will face Edmonton again April 2 after the meeting with Minnesota, then will end the season with a home-and-home set against San Jose on April 5 and 7. The Oilers and Wild are two of the worst teams in the conference, and victories in those contests may give the Kings a chance to distance themselves from the Sharks in the final two games.

Los Angeles has taken two of three from Minnesota this season, including a 4-0 victory Feb. 28 in the most recent meeting despite being outshot 26-15. Jonathan Bernier made 26 saves in the victory to earn his only shutout of the season.

Bernier would get the nod Saturday if Sutter decides to rest Quick in the second game of a back-to-back, though it's unclear if that will be the case.

Quick had gone 7-2-1 with a 2.46 GAA lifetime against the Wild before falling 4-2 on Dec. 8.

Despite being eliminated from postseason contention, Minnesota (32-35-10) proved Thursday it's not going down without a fight.

Erik Christensen scored the tying goal with 31 seconds remaining in regulation before Mikko Koivu scored 15 seconds into overtime to lift the Wild to a 3-2 win over Southeast Division-leading Florida.

Minnesota ended a three-game losing streak, and coach Mike Yeo said his team is doing all it can to compete despite knowing the season is coming to an end.

"We're playing against teams that are in playoff mode, they're fighting for something every night. We're going to be facing it again on Saturday," Yeo said. "I don't know whether our (energy) has dropped or the other teams' has picked up and we haven't picked it up to that level. It's not an easy thing to do to find a reason why your urgency level should match theirs.

"We're still working toward something here, and more than anything we're working towards having standards at a point where we won't allow ourselves to dip below them. It doesn't matter when we're playing."

Niklas Backstrom made 25 saves in his first start since suffering a groin injury March 1, and it's likely he'll be in net Saturday.

Jeff Carter sat out the Kings' win Friday with an ankle injury, and his status for this contest is uncertain.

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