Kings (7-6-3, 17 points) vs. Minnesota Wild (8-4-3, 19 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Knowing their limitations: Just when it appeared there might be a light at the end of the tunnel, the passage faded to black again Thursday night in a 3-2 loss against visiting Vancouver. The Kings were limited to two goals or less for the sixth time in the last seven games and 11th overall this season. Scoring doesn’t figure to get any easier against the Wild, who are second in the league in goals-against average, allowing 1.9 goals a game. On the offensive end, Minnesota is second-to-last in scoring. On paper, it appears the Kings and Wild are headed for another 2-1 game.
2. Early foul trouble: Taking a page out of the list of things that make NBA coaches cringe, the Kings have fallen into a troubling trend during their recent skid. In each of the last six games, a member of the Kings (or two) has gone to the penalty box in the opening minutes of the game, taking away any chance of building early momentum. The Kings killed off the early penalties in the first five games, but weren’t so fortunate against the Canucks after Trevor Lewis went to the box for a five-minute elbowing penalty. Drew Doughty joined Lewis 2½ minutes later, giving the Canucks a lengthy 5-on-3. Vancouver scored twice with the extra manpower and never relinquished the lead.
3. Milestone game: Kings coach Terry Murray will be behind the bench Saturday night for his 1,000th regular season game. Murray is tied for 20th on the all-time list with Nashville coach Barry Trotz, who will also coach his 1,000th career game Saturday night. Murray has 493 career victories, which is 18th overall and sixth among active coaches. It probably wouldn’t be a stretch to predict Murray needs to get his 500th career win by the end of the year, or he probably won’t be in L.A. for his 1,050th career game.
4. Doughty breaking out: After sitting out training camp while negotiating a new contract and then missing five games with a shoulder injury, Doughty appears to be hitting his stride, at least offensively. He has scored goals in two straight games for the first time since last February and totaled five points in the last three games. Five of his seven points have come on the power play. Doughty has two goals and six assists in 11 career games against the Wild, and his first career game-winner, scoring the deciding goal in a 2-1 shootout victory in February 2009.
5. Sharks turn Wild: The Wild made some big trades with the San Jose Sharks in the offseason, acquiring forwards Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi in separate deals. Heatley hasn’t played his best hockey against the Kings over his career. He has 10 points in 18 games but a minus-14 rating, the worst plus-minus against any team in the league by seven goals. Setoguchi has been a bit more of a thorn in the side of L.A. He’s probably best remembered for scoring the game winner in overtime of Game 3 last April at Staples Center, helping the Sharks finish off a rally from a 4-0 deficit and seize control of the series.