The Minnesota Wild gained just one out of a possible six points in the standings this week, showing signs that the annual mid season slump may soon be upon us. Minnesota sits fifth in the Central and currently occupies the second wild card spot in the West with an 11-7-4 record and 26 points. With two games against divisional opponents this week, it's important that the Wild get back in the "W" column now.
This Week's Schedule
Tuesday, December 1st - Minnesota Wild @ Chicago Blackhawks 7:00 PM CT (NBCSN)
Thursday, December 3rd - Minnesota Wild vs Toronto Maple Leafs 7:00 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI)
Saturday, December 5th - Minnesota Wild vs Colorado Avalanche 7:00 PM CT (FS-N)
Game of the Week
Even if Toronto and Colorado weren't at the bottom of the league pile, this week's game to see is against the defending Stanley Cup champs without question. The 'Hawks are 6-2-2 in their past 10 games, and have the best scorer in the league in Patrick Kane. Throw in the fact that Chicago has ended Minnesota's season three years running (winning the Cup twice in that span), and will be the club's Coors Light Stadium Series opponent this February, it's easy to see why there's a real motivation to beat these guys.
Key Player of the Week
StarTribune Wild beat writer Michael Russo recently stated that it's impossible to have an elite team without elite players. It's true - Minnesota doesn't have a Jonathan Toews, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg or Kane. Three of those guys were top-3 picks in their draft years, while the other two were both fifth round gems. The Wild haven't been bad enough for a top-3 pick since taking Marian Gaborik third overall before even playing a game, and late round picks are a crap shoot. Minnesota does have Zach Parise, however.
A Tasmanian devil of a player, Parise is one of the best 200-foot players in the game today, and is just as reliable defensively as he is offensively (and he's pretty darn dangerous offensively). Unfortunately, though injured for most of November, Minnesota's assistant captain has zero points and a negative-3 rating in six games since October 27th. Parise's seven goals are still good for second on the team behind Thomas Vanek's 10, but the Wild need more from him, and they need it now.
Key Opponent of the Week
Benn and Seguin are giving Kane a run for his money, but the next closest contender in the league point scoring race - Vancouver's Daniel Sedin - is a good 10 points behind him. Amid much controversy and speculation, "Showtime" is posting astronomical numbers. Through 24 games, the 2007 first overall pick has 14 goals, 37 points, a plus-12 rating, seven power play goals, 12 power play points and four game-winning goals. He's currently on pace for nearly 48 goals and 126 points - numbers that could easily put Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby to shame this season.
Has Kane always been this good or is he intentionally leaving his detractors in the dust with a monstrous rebound campaign? We don't know all the details of what went down this summer, but we do know his off-ice history. It's not pretty - it's actually pretty ugly. Regardless, there's no denying Kane is one of the best players in the game today, perhaps even period. Love him or hate him, he's a pure joy to watch. If you'll excuse me, I must now go wash out my mouth with soap...