Jarret Stoll

AP

Will Sutter take ‘punches in the gut’ and return to coach Kings?

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Darryl Sutter has an offer on the table to return as the Kings’ head coach, and GM Dean Lombardi isn’t concerned about him walking away.

But that doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing in Los Angeles.

In Friday’s conference call, Lombardi acknowledged the Kings are in a bit of a tough spot, and need to reevaluate things after missing the playoffs two years ago and getting bounced in five games this season.

“I think there’s an offer that’s certainly respectable, but I don’t think this is about money,” Lombardi said, per Yahoo. “I think it’s ‘are we ready to do this’ because it’s going to be a lot of work. And just like building it in the past, you stick with some tough times.

“We’re not going back to there, but to get this back on track there’s going to be some minor punches in the gut as we fight our way through.”

Sutter, 57, has been with L.A. for the last five seasons and enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, winning two Stanley Cups. His direct, no-nonsense approach is admired (even if his players locked him out of the dressing room once) and he’s incredibly tight with Lombardi, dating back from their time together in San Jose.

Sutter — from Viking, Alberta, population 1,041 — also enjoys life in L.A. He says living in Manhattan Beach is “awesome” and “basically a small town.”

But for all the good stuff, the last two years have been tumultuous off the ice — Slava Voynov’s domestic violence charge, Jarret Stoll‘s drug arrest, Mike Richards‘ contract termination — and underwhelming on it.

The Kings’ defensive depth has been whittled away, and was exposed in this year’s postseason loss to the Sharks. Veterans Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik — who combine for nearly $11 million in cap space — have struggled, and both are on the wrong side of 30.

The club wants to retain power forward Milan Lucic, and are working towards a contract extension. But with a tight cap situation, it wasn’t surprising to hear Lombardi explain he doesn’t see a deal getting done anytime soon.

Lombardi later admitted the Kings are in “uncharted waters,” and “not where we want to be.”

As for Sutter, he’s yet to speak publicly to reporters about his plans for next year.

Seeking spark, Wild give tough guy Gabriel his playoff debut

AP
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Minnesota will have a new look against Dallas tonight as it looks to avoid falling behind three games to none.

A big, physical look.

Kurtis Gabriel — who, at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, was one of the AHL’s most active fighters this year — will draw into the Wild lineup as the series shifts to Xcel. It’ll be the first-ever Stanley Cup playoff game for the 22-year-old, who made his NHL debut earlier this year, appearing in three games.

“Hard-working kid, good on the walls, physical, likes to fight,” is how Wild head coach John Torchetti described Gabriel, per the Star-Tribune. “The kind of player you like.”

Gabriel’s numbers with AHL Iowa this year give a good idea of what to expect tonight. He had six goals and 137 PIM in 66 games, to go along with 15 fights.

In his three games with the Wild, he scrapped twice.

Gabriel isn’t the only lineup change for Minnesota tonight. Zac Dalpe, who sat Game 2 after playing over 10 minutes in Game 1, is back in as well. Looks as though Jarret Stoll and Ryan Carter are coming out of the lineup.

Related: Seguin ‘irritated something’ in Game 2, stayed in Dallas, won’t play tonight

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

AP
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Wild unable to ‘lock down’ a crucial point versus Sharks

January, 2015: Minnesota Wild is in a free-fall through early and mid-January and there’s talk Mike Yeo’s job as head coach should be on the line, before that team turns it around and rolls right into the playoffs.

January, 2016: Maybe things aren’t quite as dire for the Wild compared to a year ago, but this month has provided its share of difficulties. Minnesota still remains in a Wild Card spot, four points up on Nashville in that race, but only three wins in the last 10 games have made things a bit closer than the Wild would like.

The Wild was in a position to claim at least a single point versus the San Jose Sharks on Saturday, after Jarret Stoll scored (his third of the season) to tie the game for Minnesota. But off a faceoff, Sharks’ forward Joe Pavelski scored with 1:24 remaining in regulation to give his team the lead.

San Jose would hold on for the 4-3 win.

Minnesota’s three-game trip through California produced two of a possible six points.

In those two losses, the Wild was tied with the opposition in the third period. Against Anaheim and again against San Jose, the Wild conceded a late go-ahead goal and, as a result, valuable points.

“It’s kind of the Anaheim story,” Stoll told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

“Tie game late in the third on the road, you want to at least get a point. We’ve got to lock those games down. A playoff team, a good team, you’ve got to lock those games down.”

Kuemper blanks Kings as Wild end five-game losing streak

Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) Zach Parise scored Minnesota’s first power-play goal in January, Darcy Kuemper made 32 saves in his seventh career shutout and the Wild snapped their five-game losing streak with a 3-0 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.

Erik Haula added a short-handed goal for the Wild, who pulled out of their tailspin with a gritty effort against the Pacific Division leaders. Charlie Coyle scored on a breakaway during a solid offensive performance by a team that had scored just one goal in its previous nine periods.

Jonathan Quick stopped 25 shots for the Kings, who lost in regulation for just the third time in 13 games since Christmas. Los Angeles was shut out for just the second time in 43 games since the opening week of the season.

Minnesota thrived with big performances on special teams. Parise started the scoring off a pass from Thomas Vanek, ending the Wild’s 0-for-25 drought across 12 games since Dec. 28 on the power play.

Los Angeles then gave up a 2-on-1 short-handed rush early in the third, and Haula converted Mikko Koivu‘s pass for his second short-handed goal of the year.

Jordan Nolan had the Kings’ best scoring chance late in the second, but Kuemper stopped him at point-blank range. Kuemper looked sharp in his first victory and second appearance for the Wild since Dec. 22.

Minnesota forward Jarret Stoll played at Staples Center for the first time since the two-time Stanley Cup champion left the Kings as a free agent last summer. The Kings honored him with a video tribute during a first-period break, and Los Angeles fans rose for a standing ovation.

Stoll was a dependable two-way center and a Kings leader, but his offensive production declined sharply before his departure, and the Kings didn’t re-sign him after he was arrested and eventually charged with two misdemeanors relating to alleged drug possession in Las Vegas shortly after the Kings’ season ended last April. He struggled with the New York Rangers this year before getting waived and catching on with the Wild.

Coyle scored with 13.6 seconds left in the second period after a Kings defensive change and an alley-oop pass from Marco Scandella left him alone on Quick. Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter used his challenge to argue Coyle was offside, but the play stood.

Related: As Wild’s offense goes dry, Parise feeling the pressure to produce