The Minnesota Wild, the surprise team of the NHL thus far, comes to town tonight. The Wild have the most points in the NHL, but how narrow is the line between winning and losing in the game today? Consider that the Kings, who have nine fewer points than the Wild, have scored only nine fewer goals, total. That’s basically one goal every three games. The Kings and Wild have both allowed 61 goals this season. The Wild rank 25th in the league in goals per game, and third in goals against per game, while the Kings rank 30th and fourth, respectively. One difference? The Wild are 11-2-3 in one-game games. Scoring has been down throughout the NHL this season, and as Terry Murray indicated, there’s a good probability of a low-scoring game any night, any arena.
MURRAY: “The year before the lockout, the top-scoring team in the NHL scored how many goals? Two hundred and sixty two. What was the top-scoring team in the NHL last year? Vancouver. How many goals did they score? Two hundred and sixty two. So it hasn’t changed much. The one thing that has changed is, the neutral zone play is much tighter. You saw it last night with Anaheim. We’re seeing it with basically every team in the league. Everybody is pulling back to the blue line, and it’s a very tight structure now in the middle of the ice. It is difficult to have a possession entry. On organized attacks, you get organized and there comes a time when you’re being fronted and you just have to get pucks in deep and you’ve got to go recover them. So it’s hard, and it’s hard for everybody in the league right now.’’
Murray also gave his scouting report on the Wild, who are riding a five-game winning streak…
MURRAY: “They’re a team that really feeds off the play in the middle of the ice. Their transition is good. They get back at it. They attack that middle lane as hard as any other team in the league right. I look back at the pre-scout (video) that I showed before the Anaheim game, to our players, and that was Minnesota scoring goals, and that was exactly what they were doing and what we have to be aware of here tonight. We have to be strong through the middle of the ice, managing the puck and making sure that, if there’s an attack coming at us, we have to front that man going to the net through the middle lane. Our defense is going to have to be very strong, playing stick-strong and doing the right stuff on the checking part of it.’’