There are rarely any easy games in the best hockey league on the planet. This week looks to be no different. Minnesota plays three games this week - two against big divisional rivals. Are y'all ready? I know I am.
This Week's Schedule
Thursday, November 12th - Minnesota Wild @ Carolina Hurricanes 6:00 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI)
Saturday, November 14th - Minnesota Wild @ Dallas Stars 7:00 PM CT (FS-N)
Game of the Week
Hmm. Eenie, Meenie, Dallas Stars. If you thought I would go with any other team, well, you're just crazy. The Stars are the old team (Norm Green still sucks, by the way), they lead the NHL's toughest division and currently have the league's two highest scoring players (we'll get to them in a minute) and third-highest scoring defenseman, Swedish sophomore John Klingberg. It's simple, be there or be square. I'll be calling a Tier 1 AAA Scheels SuperSeries tournament in Sioux Falls, SD that day. Stop on by and we'll be squares together!
Key Player of the Week
Minnesota has the defense, the offense (minus the injured Zach Parise, of course), the power play and an ever improving penalty kill. The biggest problem for the club this season is the lack of consistent goaltending.
Devan Dubnyk hasn't lived up to the high, Vezina-caliber standard he set last year, or the even bigger contract he signed in the off-season. Darcy Kuemper has seen just two games - a brilliant performance against the Kings and a stinker against the Jets. Then there's aging Niklas Backstrom - the franchise's all-time leading goaltender - who had a very solid preseason, but has been filling up on popcorn in the press box through 13 games thus far. Someone has to step up. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher, and the entire fan base, is hoping it'll be Dubnyk.
In 12 appearances this season, No. 40 has eight wins, a 2.41 goals against average, a .907 save percentage and two shutouts. Unfortunately, minus the two shutouts, Dubnyk has been finished just four of those appearances at or above .900. Minnesota is going to need him at his very best this week - especially against Dallas - or Saturday night's showdown against the Stars could be nothing more than a feast for Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
Key Opponents of the Week
Speaking of Benn and Seguin, the "BS line" is no joke in Dallas. The league's two leading scorers have combined for 18 goals, 41 points, a plus-8 rating, seven power play goals, 12 power play points, a short handed point, four game-winning goals (one in overtime) and 98 shots on goal through 14 games played. Add in offensively dynamic rear guard Klingberg (two goals, 13 points, plus-6 rating, six power play points and a 23:17 nightly average ice-time), and it's easy to see how a team like the Stars can go from no playoffs to leading the Western Conference. Still, hold your horses, we're not even a quarter of the way through the season yet. Regardless, this group will no doubt keep the Wild on its toes.