After dropping a close one in Tampa on Saturday, Minnesota will finish their road trip tonight in Florida. If you have been living under a rock or dont #RTFB, tonight will be a bit of a reunion for some. Obviously, Nick Bjugstad a former Golden Gopher and Minnesota native will get to see his ol' buddy Erik Haula. Both Bjugstad & Haula played at Minnesota and remain great friends to this day. Bjugstad is playing on the top line in Florida; as he is 2nd on the team in points, first in goals with seven and has record eight points in his last five games (5-3=8). The Minnesota connection in this game are also off the wall.
Former Minnesota Wild, Willie Mitchel is the captain in Florida. Panthers Assistant Coach John Madden played 76 games with Minnesota in 2010-11. Keith Ballard played two seasons with the Panthers and did not miss a game, playing in 164 consecutive games for Florida. Also do not forget Wild General Manager, Chuck Fletcher as he spent nine years serving in the front office for Florida (1993- 2002).
The Panthers are 7-3-5 in their last 15 games, earing 19 out of a possible 30 points. Minnesota will be starting Niklas Backstrom between the pipes tonight. Backstrom is 5-0-1 with a 1.95 GAA and a .941 SV% in six career starts against the Panthers. Thomas Vanek has 32 points (21-11=32) in 33 games and Jason Pominville has also had success against Florida with 31 points (12-19=31) in 32 contests. Minnesota is still lacking scoring when away from the X but with Roberto Luongo in goal for Florida, anything is possible. We have not heard if Mike Yeo plans to shuffle the lines tonight but check back at 6:15 for the gamethread. GO WILD.