The Minnesota Wild will go for back-to-back wins when they welcome the Los Angeles Kings to town on Thursday night for the opener of a three-game homestand in Saint Paul, Minn.
Minnesota is coming off a 5-2 road win against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. That gave the Wild a pair of victories in their first three games, boosting the mood in the locker room in the process.
The team is averaging 3.7 goals per game, but veteran forward Joel Eriksson Ek said a big reason for the Wild’s early success is something that is harder to spot in a box score.
“I think it’s all about battles and winning our one-on-one battles,” Eriksson Ek said. “Even if it’s (in the) corner, coming out with the puck, or in front of the net, it helps to play with the puck. You’ve got a little more energy when you can get the puck early and start your offense.”
The Kings also hope to notch their first back-to-back victories of the season. Los Angeles is coming off Tuesday’s 5-1 win against the host Winnipeg Jets.
Like the Wild, the Kings have enjoyed success in the offensive zone, netting 12 goals in their first three games. They also have given up 12 goals, and they are looking to tighten up their defense in Minnesota.
Los Angeles forward Pierre-Luc Dubois said he has been impressed with his teammates’ demeanor regardless of whether they are leading, trailing or tied. Dubois is in his first season with the Kings after spending the previous two-plus with Winnipeg.
“The more I get to know the guys here and the staff and the team, there seems to be a sense of calmness on the bench and in the dressing room and everything,” Dubois said.
Kings goaltender Cam Talbot, who spent two seasons in Minnesota, could get the start against his former team. He is 1-1-0 with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage this season.
In 15 career games against the Wild, Talbot is 7-7-1 with a 2.28 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
The Kings’ other option in net is Pheonix Copley, who is 0-0-1 with a 4.66 GAA and a .737 save percentage in one start this season. Copley is 1-1-0 with a 2.04 GAA and a .917 save percentage in two career contests against Minnesota.
The Wild likely will counter with Filip Gustavsson between the pipes. The 25-year-old is 1-1-0 with a 3.50 GAA and a .905 save percentage to start the season.
In four career games against Los Angeles, Gustavsson is 1-3-0 with a 2.52 GAA and a .929 save percentage.
Veteran Marc-Andre Fleury has served as the Wild’s No. 2 netminder in the early going. He made his season debut against Montreal, and he is 1-0-0 with a 2.00 GAA and a .931 save percentage.
Fleury is 12-9-4 with a 2.58 GAA and a .916 save percentage in 26 career games against the Kings.
The Wild are 4-for-13 on the power play this season, while the Kings are 3-for-17.
Eriksson Ek has scored three of Minnesota’s four power-play goals.
“I’m just trying to read off the guys (near the blue line),” Eriksson Ek said. “They’re doing a great job finding those small passes to the guy in the slot or in front. It’s been good.”
On Wednesday, the Wild placed veteran defenseman Alex Goligoski on long-term injured reserve due to a lower-body injury.