Kings head to Minnesota for Kevin Fiala homecoming

Losers of their first two games, both at home, the Kings hit the road for a five-game trip set to begin in Minnesota on Saturday

“We have to pack our bags, we have to go on the road and we have to go into a war zone,” 2022 team MVP Phillip Danault said. “We’ve got to get a win and get back on track.”

Coach Todd McLellan said while the trip would cut down valuable practice time, the timing offered the advantages of traveling while fresh as well as allowing his group to bond and coalesce.

“I think this is going to be good for our team. We have a couple of new guys here, so this is going to be much needed,” Danault concurred.

One of the new guys is Kevin Fiala, whom the Kings acquired via trade and signed to a seven-year extension that made him the third highest-paid player on the team. Fiala spent three full seasons and part of another in Minnesota, including his breakthrough 85-point campaign last year.

Fiala, however, has been unremarkable for the Kings to date, posting no points and a minus-three rating with two giveaways in two games.

But if this homecoming of sorts doesn’t stimulate his production, the fans in Minnesota will likely understand.

Fiala has been a notoriously slow starter in his career, in which he has registered a meager 16 points in 48 October games to go with a minus-20 rating. His production has usually ramped up as the season progressed. In April and May, he has exceeded a point per game (48 points in 47 contests) and been a plus-player historically in every other month but October.

McLellan also remarked that Fiala had the added adjustment of arriving to a new club, much as Danault did last year when he left the Montreal Canadiens in free agency. Danault had three points in nine October matches and just four goals in the first three months of the season. He potted 17 goals in the final three months and became an integral part of the roster in less than a full campaign.

“I think we’re going to see more and more from Kevin,” McLellan said. “I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet, but I think he’s going to be an important player as we go forward.”

Another addition to this iteration of the Kings is rookie Brandt Clarke, who made his NHL debut in Thursday’s 4-1 defeat by the Seattle Kraken and was one of the bright spots in the loss. With a trip that includes no divisional opponents, Clarke could make additional appearances across the five games.

“He didn’t hurt us at all defensively; (he was) creative offensively,” McLellan said. “I’d like to see him shoot the puck a little bit because I think he’s got a great shot.”

Like the Kings, Minnesota was a playoff team last year that stumbled out of the gate this season, losing their opener 7-3 to the New York Rangers on Thursday. It was just the second regulation loss in a home opener in franchise history. Fiala’s former linemate, Matthew Boldy, had two goals in the blowout loss.

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Despite Minnesota’s defensive troubles, Joe Smith of The Athletic reported that the Wild did not change up their lines in practice Friday. The Kings also skated before they traveled and should likely get winger Viktor Arvidsson back after he missed Thursday’s game.

One sure bet is that winger Kirill Kaprizov will be at the top of the Minnesota lineup. The 25-year-old winger exploded for 108 points last season and has 11 points in 11 matches against the Kings.


When: Saturday, 5 p.m.

Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota

TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/IHeartRadio

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