Ahead of their game versus the Wild, LA Kings netminder Cal Petersen addressed the play of Minnesota rookie Kirill Kaprizov.
At this juncture of the season, it is redundant to suggest that every game is important. Nevertheless, that is especially the case for the LA Kings, who enter Friday night five points out of a playoff spot. Their opponents, the Minnesota Wild, are well on their way to clinching a playoff spot but don’t expect them to take their foot off the gas in Los Angeles.
In what will be their final meeting against them this season, the Kings are 2-2-3 against the Wild in 2021, but it will take a full 60-minute effort to earn that third win against their rivals from the North Star State.
At 29-13-3, the Wild have been one of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season. At 61 points, they sit third in the West Division and just five points behind the Colorado Avalanche for second place. But, as impressive as the Wild have been collectively this season, it would be difficult to fathom that success without the play of their star rookie, Kirill Kaprizov.
Through 45 games thus far, Kaprizov leads the Wild with 19 goals and 38 points. Additionally, to the dismay of the Kings, he has seven points (4G, 3A) in seven games against the silver-and-black this season. In fact, only against the Arizona Coyotes has the Calder Trophy favorite collected more tallies against in 2021.
In regards to Kaprizov, he was a topic of discussion during the Kings’ post-practice media call on Thursday. Specifically, netminder Cal Petersen gave his insights on the Russian.
“He seems like an incredible playmaker,” noted the Kings goaltender. “He’s a guy that I think, can kind of surprise you in the zone, whether it’s making a pass and maybe the pick was there, taking the puck to the net where he thought he was kind of covered.
Drafted in the fifth round (135th overall) in 2015, it is fair to say that the Wild found themselves a hidden gem in Kaprizov. Of course, the 23-year-old spent the next five years in the KHL before coming to North America in 2020, and if his performance this season is any indication, the wait was well worth it for the Wild.
For the Kings, though, they need to be on guard on Friday if they hope to contain the youngster.
“He’s a guy, you kind of know when he’s on the ice or have to watch when he’s around,” Petersen added. “He’s very dangerous around the net, so he’s definitely a guy that stirs the drink on that team, but they’ve got a lot of really good complementary players. So, it’s going to be a big challenge for us but I think we’re gonna rise up to it.”
As of Friday morning, it hasn’t been confirmed whether Petersen will get his second-straight start or if the Kings will elect to start Jonathan Quick instead. Whichever netminder they do go with on Friday, though, the Kings will have their work cut out for them, especially with their opponent’s No. 97 gracing the ice.