The Los Angeles Kings were on a plane bound for a Monday night road game versus the Minnesota Wild before the first stars hit the red carpet at the Oscars, but the team from Hollywood did a nice job producing a blockbuster on Sunday anyway. As did the team from St. Paul.
Monday will mark the third meeting of the season between the Kings and Wild, and the home team will look significantly different as well. On Sunday, the Wild made a small splash in the morning, signing free agent forward Ryan Carter to a two-way deal. They made a much bigger deal in the evening, trading a package that includes their 2017 first-round draft pick and their 2018 second-rounder to Arizona for center Martin Hanzal. In 51 games for the Coyotes this season, the 6-foot-6 Czech center has 16 goals and 26 points. Minnesota also got center Ryan White in the deal.
The Wild are coming off their bye week, having not played since a 5-3 home loss to Chicago last Tuesday, and should be tanned and rested, with a few players posting pictures from tropical locales where they spent the downtime. Before the Hanzal trade became official, Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau said it felt good just to have his team back on the rink.
“I think there were some missed passes, but I just wanted them to get up and down the ice and get used to playing again,” Boudreau said, admitting he sought outside advice about how to get his team back in game shape after the layoff. “I talked to a couple friends of mine in the league and asked what they did, with different results and different thought processes.”
On Saturday, the Kings’ top goalie — Jonathan Quick — returned from a long-term injury and backstopped a 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Less than 24 hours later, the goaltending situation in Los Angeles looked dramatically different, as general manager Dean Lombardi made a chess master’s move, getting a Bishop to defend the Kings.
Less than two seasons removed from a starring role in leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final, goalie Ben Bishop comes to the Kings in the first big move in advance of Wednesday’s trade deadline. The Kings are sending goalie Peter Budaj, who started 51 games for Los Angeles this season, to Tampa Bay.
While some experts believe the Kings still need offense to make a deep playoff run, in the near term it gives them perhaps the most important goalie tandem in the Western Conference, especially now that Quick is back and feeling confident.
“It’s great to be in the locker room on game day and all and to be a part of it,” Quick said on Saturday, after recording 32 saves versus the Ducks. He had not played since October, when he suffered a groin injury in the team’s season opener. “Everything feels good. I wouldn’t have played if it didn’t feel good.”
Both the Kings and Wild are playing back-to-back games after meeting in Minnesota, with the Wild facing the Jets in Winnipeg on Tuesday and the Kings facing the Flames in Calgary that same night.
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