The Wild are on a two-game win streak and all appears back to normal, right? Not quite, unfortunately. While Minnesota has won its past two games against the reeling Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes, the other teams in the Central Division have been busy, as well.
Both the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets won their games over Chicago and Arizona, respectively, extending the Wild's hole to six points behind Calgary and 13 behind Winnipeg for the second and first wild card spots. With the All-Star Break coming later this week, tonight and tomorrow night's games are almost must-wins in order for the Wild to get back into contention. Will newly acquired goaltender Devan Dubnyk, along with the return of top-4 defensemen Ryan Suter and Marco Scandella, be enough to lift the club?
This Week's Schedule
Monday 7:00 PM vs Columbus Blue Jackets (FS-N)
Tuesday 6:30 PM @ Detroit Red Wings (FS-N, FS-WI)
Game of the Week
The Red Wings just won't die. Even with their long-time All-Star vets aging, Detroit always finds a way to win and make the playoffs. I'll be 25 in July, but the boys in Hockey Town have never failed to make the postseason in that span. Wow!
This year, the winged Wheels are led in scoring by none other than captain Henrik Zetterberg, who has managed 14 goals, 41 points and a plus-3 rating through 46 games. Detroit's 2009 second round pick, Tomas Tatar, leads the club in goal scoring with 21 goals, 34 points and a plus-5 rating in 46 matches. On the back end, Niklas Kronwall leads all Red Wings rear guards with five goals, a team fifth-best 26 points and a plus-1 rating while skating a team-leading average ice-time of 23:45 per game. Kronwall's 13 power play points are tied for third-most on the team with Pavel Datsyuk.
In net, Jimmy Howard leads the team with a 16-7-7 record, a 2.11 goals against average, a .920 save percentage and two shutouts. However, Minnesota may have dodged a bullet as Detroit's top netminder is week-to-week with a groin injury. As such, youngster Petr Mrazek will be most likely be between the pipes. So far this season, he has eight wins, a 2.33 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.
Key Player of the Week
If there's anything we've learned the past two games, it's that the Wild live and die by the play of their men in the cage. If that's truly the case, there may be no more important player for the club this week, and throughout the rest of the season, than Dubnyk.
Minnesota's big "giraffe" has had to make due with the cards given him over the course of his career. For the first time in his six-year NHL stint, he may actually have a very solid hand. In 21 games between the Coyotes and Wild this season, the 6'6" 210-pound netminder has 11 wins, a 2.49 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts. It's certainly not bad.
No one can argue about how bad Edmonton's defense has been of recent years, and Arizona is struggling this season like never before. With a strong puck-moving defensive structure typical of the Wild under Mike Yeo, Dubnyk has the chance to live up to the potential worthy of a goaltender picked in the first round. That said, fans and the Minnesota brass should expect a very motivated "Doobie" the rest of the season as he not only looks to lock up a starting role next year, but potentially with the Wild, as well. In addition, with young Darcy Kuemper returning, new talent should keep him busy and (hopefully) at the top of his game.
We may only be two games in, but it certainly looks like Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher's latest trade is paying off in spades.