Kings (13-10-4, 30 points) vs. Minnesota Wild (18-7-3, 39 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Back of the pack: The Kings officially dropped to last in the league in scoring after their 3-2 loss Tuesday in Anaheim. They’re eight goals behind their 27-game pace last season, when they finished 25th out of 30 teams in the league in scoring. The answer to their scoring woes seems to be consistent from players, coaches and management. Get pucks to the net as often as possible and good things will happen. That’s certainly no guarantee, as the the Kings took 23 shots on goal in the third period alone against the Ducks and only one hit the net.
2. Some positives: While the Kings haven’t scored more than two goals in their last six games, they have at least received some secondary scoring along the way. Kevin Westgarth, Ethan Moreau and Dustin Penner scored their first goals of the season during the skid, Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll broke out of long goal-less streaks and defensemen Jack Johnson and Slava Voynov also landed on the score sheet. The Kings just need their goal scorers to get hot now. Anze Kopitar hasn’t scored in the last six games and Simon Gagne in the last nine.
3. Here to stay? Kings defenseman Alec Martinez is set to return tonight from a 10-game absence because of a shoulder injury, which occurred when the Kings hosted the Wild in a 5-2 victory Nov. 12. Meanwhile, fellow blue liner Willie Mitchell was placed on injured reserved retroactive to Dec. 1 with a groin strain. When he does come back to the lineup, the Kings will have a tough time sending Voynov back to Manchester. Voynov has been one of the bright lights on the team this season, scoring four goals and adding three assists in 15 games. Defensively, he comes into tonight with a plus-5 rating, the highest on the team. By comparison, Drew Doughty has two goals and six assists in 22 games, and a minus-4 rating. In other injury news, Williams will be a game-time decision after suffering a hand injury against the Ducks.
4. Wild times: The Wild enter the game with the best record in the NHL, an accomplishment few could have envisioned one-third of way through the regular season. When the Kings beat the Wild last month, it represented one of only five times this season they’ve scored more than three goals in a game. The Wild bounced right back, however, going 10-2-0 since the loss in L.A.
5. Dukes up: After a fight-filled rookie season in which he finished fourth in the league in major penalties, Kings forward Kyle Clifford has backed off on his roughhousing, dropping the gloves just three times in 27 games. Through the first 30 games last season, Clifford had eight fighting majors. Clifford might just be finding it difficult to find “dance partners” after he got the best of most opponents last season, but the Wild have one of the league’s most well-known antagonists in right wing Brad Staubitz, who has five fighting majors this season, including a doozy Sunday night against Jean-Francois Jacques of the Ducks. Don’t be surprised if they square off tonight.