Kings vs. Wild: Three questions behind enemy lines

Ahead of the LA Kings home opener against the Minnesota Wild, here are three questions that needed answers before the puck drops.

Thursday’s 2021 season opener will mark the first time the LA Kings have played a game that counts in the standings since mid-March of last year. By now, everyone is familiar with how the season ended; the Kings won their final seven and eight of their last ten. Largely led by several new faces, there is a certain buzz around the fanbase for the season to start.

It’s certainly difficult to build off that momentum where the LA Kings last left off. Still, a healthy Gabriel Vilardi and Jeff Carter, a bounceback year from Drew Doughty, along with Blake Lizotte entering year two and the influx of other young talent, could have the organization thinking playoffs. Much of the national media believes otherwise, but a shorter season, essentially a sprint to the finish line, could end up being beneficial to the Kings.

It will be important to get off to a hot start, and the LA Kings will open up their season to a fanless Staples Center, hosting the Minnesota Wild for two games. The Wild finished with a 35-27-7 record with 220 goals both forced and allowed in the 19-20 season. The organization said goodbye to Bruce Boudreau in mid-February, and interim head coach Dean Evason was tabbed as the permanent head coach over the summer. They are one of three new teams in the hybrid West Division, with all Canadian teams staying north of the border in 2021.

The Wild parted with captain Mikko Koivu, who signed a one-year deal with Columbus in October. Last season, the Kings went 2-1 against the Wild, but these two teams will become familiar with each other fairly quickly in the early goings of the 2021 season, with eight matchups scheduled within the first 21 games.

To help us get to know the Minnesota Wild better, we asked Gone Puck Wild a few questions ahead of the Opening Night matchup.

Will Kirill Kaprizov be on the Opening Night roster?

Absolutely. The fanbase has been hyped for him the last three years. He’ll be on the top line with Nick Bjugstad and Zach Parise; it looks like.

Who is someone on Minnesota’s roster Kings’ fans should be concerned with (other than Fiala)?

The Wild player Kings’ fans need to be concerned with is offensive defenseman Matt Dumba. Just two seasons ago, he began the year with an explosion of offensive production and was putting together a career year before he ruptured his pectoral in a fight against the Calgary Flames, defending then Captain Mikko Koivu. Last season, he regressed or teams game planned for his offensive skill, and he had a less productive year. Keep an eye on him this year.

What does the goaltending situation look like post-Dubnyk?

This off-season, the Wild’s premier free agent addition to the roster was goalie Cam Talbot. Management felt the play in net needed an improvement after a season that saw the Wild have a league worse tandem. Talbot quietly put together a solid year with the Flames behind “Big Save Dave,” even outperforming him in some statistical categories.

Talbot will be the 1A in Minnesota, originally in front of Alex Stalock. He’s been sidelined with a shoulder injury indefinitely, so the Wild promoted AHL Goalie of the Year Kaapo Kähkönen to be the backup in Stalock’s absence. And behind Kaapo, Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond lurks if he is needed.

Checking In

Was [Marco] Rossi expected to be with the Wild this year?

I really couldn’t gauge it. I thought he had a solid chance because the Wild simply do not have a proven first or second-line center on their roster, but I also understand the thought of avoiding using the first year of his ELC on a season they aren’t well-equipped to make a deep run.

A special thank you to Lake Martin for taking the time to speak with us.