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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.”

Campbell’s perfect snipe sinks Wings in OT

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Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.

With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.

It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.

Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.

The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.

Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.

They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.

This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.

With Jonathan Bernier sputtering, we’ll meet Garret Sparks

Garett Sparks
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You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.

With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.

Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).

In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:

Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.

Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.

Video: Dylan Larkin adds to his rookie goals lead

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So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.

The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.

No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.

He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.

Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

Carey Price
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There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)