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Minnesota Wild Host Los Angeles Kings To Kick Off NHL's Second Half

(Sports Network) - The Los Angeles Kings know they have some work to do if they want to be a playoff-caliber club. Three straight victories prior to the All-Star break was a good start.

The Kings hope to win four straight for the first time in over a month as they visit the Minnesota Wild and Xcel Energy Center.

Los Angeles closed out its pre-All-Star Game schedule with three straight wins on the heels of a 2-10 span that included a 2-6 homestand. Its final game before the break was a 3-2 shootout win over San Jose on Wednesday, won on Jarret Stoll's fourth-round tally.

"It's huge, absolutely," Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick told his team's website. "We need wins. We need two points. We dug a little hole for ourselves, and I think we've done a good job of starting to climb back out, but we still have a lot of work to do."

The Kings now go for their first four-game win streak since Dec. 21-27 in the opener of a mammoth 10-game road trip.

Perhaps a lengthy swing will help the Kings get back on track as they won't play in front of their home fans again until Feb. 24. They begin this swing tied for 10th in the Western Conference with the Wild, a point back of a playoff spot.

Anze Kopitar will look to carry a solid All-Star Game showing onto this trip. He scored twice for Team Lidstrom in the 11-10 win over Team Staal and leads Los Angeles with 33 assists and 49 points. Kopitar has a goal and three assists in two games versus the Wild this year.

Quick has been in net for both meetings with the Wild this year, with each team recording a post-regulation road win, but head coach Terry Murray will go with Jonathan Bernier tonight and Quick tomorrow versus Edmonton.

Bernier has never faced the Wild and is just 1-6-0 with a 2.95 goals-against average in eight games on the road this season.

Los Angeles came through with a 3-2 shootout win back on Oct. 25 before Minnesota countered with a 3-2 overtime triumph on Dec. 11. Dustin Brown had a goal and an assist in the loss for the Kings, but has just one goal in his last 15 games.

Brent Burns had the overtime winner for the Wild and joined teammate Martin Havlat on Team Lidstrom on Sunday. Havlat ended with three assists and Burns set up a goal as well.

The duo are tied with Mikko Koivu and Cal Clutterbuck for the team lead with 14 goals, while Havlat has a club-high 30 assists as well as four goals and two helpers in his last five games.

Burns, meanwhile, has a pair of goals and three assists in his last four games.

Minnesota has won four of its last five games, including a 4-2 victory in Chicago last Tuesday. Niklas Backstrom made 31 saves in one of just three starts he made in January due to a hip injury. He went 2-1-0 with a 2.00 GAA in those games and is 4-3-3 with a 2.40 GAA lifetime when facing the Kings.

Los Angeles has won seven of its last 10 versus the Wild overall and four of the last five in Minnesota.

Wild forward Andrew Brunette, a seventh-round pick by the Capitals in 1993, is expected to skate in his 1,000th career game this evening.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.