Leipold AP

Wild owner Leipold: ‘We think our team is very much like the Kings’


Say this about Craig Leipold — he’s not short on confidence.

Two days after Minnesota made the postseason for the first time since 2008 — as the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed —  the owner said his club reminded him of another eighth-seeded club:

Last year’s Los Angeles Kings.

More, from Leipold’s interview with Bob Sansevere of the Pioneer Press:

BS: In every sport, there have been teams that struggle at the end of a regular season and then have renewed life. Is that what you’re expecting to happen?

CL: There is no better example than what happened last year with the Los Angeles Kings.

The L.A. Kings only won four of their last 11 games and they lost their last two games. Still got into the playoffs and end up winning the Stanley Cup. We don’t have to go very far to find a model. We think our team is very much like the Kings. We go hot. We go cold. We did it all season.

Now we’ve got to go hot, and we think we can.

To build on this theme, recent success of No. 8 seeds actually goes beyond Los Angeles:

— In 2012, Ottawa took the New York Rangers to Game 7.

— In 2011, Chicago took Vancouver to Game 7.

— In 2010, Montreal made it to the Eastern Conference finals.

— In 2009, Anaheim beat San Jose in Round 1.

But there’s a problem in comparing this year’s Minnesota team with last year’s Los Angeles team, and that problem is playoff experience.

Specifically, how the Wild fall short of the Kings.

Only Zach Parise, Torrey Mitchell, Mike Rupp, Devin Setoguchi, Brett Clark and Matt Cullen have made it past the second round in their careers.

The likes of Tom Gilbert, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Charlie Coyle, Justin Falk, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Clayton Stoner will all be making their postseason debuts.

The Kings, meanwhile, went into last postseason with four Stanley Cup winners (Justin Williams, Dustin Penner, Rob Scuderi, Colin Fraser), five more Cup finalists (Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, Matt Greene, Jarret Stoll) and an experienced playoff vet in Willie Mitchell.

Despite this, Leipold remains confident in his group.

“This is a whole new season,” he explained. “It’s the hot team with the hot goalie and hot players that will now start to rise. We think we’ve got a chance to do that.”

Video: Eichel’s first career NHL goal

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Didn’t take long for Jack Eichel to make his mark at the NHL level.

The No. 2 overall pick at this year’s draft scored his first-ever NHL goal in his first-ever NHL game on Thursday night, cutting Ottawa’s lead to 2-1 in the third period of Buffalo’s season-opener.

Marcus Foligno and another new Sabre, Evander Kane, registered the assists on Eichel’s marker, which came on the power play.


Tough start: Lehner knocked out of Sabres debut, won’t return

Matt Puempel, Alex Chiasson, Robin Lehner
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Chances are Robin Lehner won’t look back fondly on his first game as a Sabre.

Midway through Buffalo’s season-opener against Ottawa, Lehner — facing his old team for the first time since getting traded this summer — suffered a lower-body injury, and was forced from the contest.

During the second intermission, the Sabres ruled out Lehner for the night.

It was a difficult turn of events for 24-year-old, who admitted he was keen to go up against the Sens. He had a bit of a chip on his shoulder about his time in the Canadian capital; Lehner felt he never got a full opportunity to run with the No. 1 gig, and probably wasn’t thrilled GM Bryan Murray opted to keep Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond instead of him.

As for tonight’s injury, details are scarce. All that’s known is the ailment was serious enough for Lehner to leave and not return, forcing backup Chad Johnson into duty.

Prior to getting hurt, Lehner had stopped 11 of 12 shots faced.