Wild at Kings preview: A pair of unexpected kindred spirits


at Los Angeles Kings, Arena, 9 p.m. Wednesday

TV; radio: TNT; 100.3 FM

Stats and analytics: Tap here.

Sarah McLellan's analysis:

Opening bell: The Wild and Kings haven't faced off since the Wild's fourth game of the season in what probably feels like a lifetime ago for both teams. Los Angeles had a sharp start to the season that included winning 20 of its first 31 games but then slumped going into the All-Star break and — like the Wild — made a coaching change. Since then, the Kings have reset and are battling Vegas for the third seed in the Pacific. They hosted Chicago on Tuesday night while the Wild played at Anaheim.

Watch him: Wild G Marc-Andre Fleury is scheduled to start in net for the road trip finale. Fleury was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week for his recent 2-0-1 showing against Arizona, Anaheim and St. Louis. Since Jan. 13, the veteran netminder is 9-2-1 with a 1.92 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and one shutout in 14 games played (12 starts).

NHL standings

Injuries: Wild C Joel Eriksson Ek (lower body) and D Jared Spurgeon (hip/back). Kings RW Viktor Arvidsson (lower body), G Pheonix Copley (knee) and RW Carl Grundstrom (lower body).

Forecast: When the Kings were cruising and the Wild were spiraling early in the season, it looked like neither team would threaten the other's playoff ambitions. Fast forward to March, and Los Angeles could stand in the way of the Wild's wild-card pursuit depending on how its showdown with Vegas goes for third place in the Pacific Division. That makes this matchup important for both squads. The Wild were overwhelmed 7-3 by the Kings on Oct. 19, so they'll need to be cognizant of Los Angeles' talented forwards — including former Wild RW Kevin Fiala. But they can't be too timid so as not to challenge the Kings, who will also be finishing a back-to-back. Playing a patient, disciplined road game is the way to go.