The Minnesota Wild will look to continue their point streak this week with home games against Vancouver and New York, and a quick roadie to Nashville. Minnesota's game against the Preds is the lone away game a six-game home stand that kicks off tomorrow night.
The Wild currently sit third in the Central Division (at the time of this Sunday morning writing) with 15 wins and 36 points in 28 games. They're just two points behind St. Louis with two games in hand, but sit tied with Chicago, which has 16 wins and 36 points in 30 games. Nashville is just one point behind with 15 wins and 35 points in 30 games for the final wild card spot in the West. Behind the Central's top-5, Winnipeg (30 points) is falling behind with a mediocre .500 in their past-10, while the cellar dwellers in Colorado (27 points) are on the rise with six wins in their past 10 games.
This Week's Schedule
Tuesday, December 15th - Minnesota Wild vs Vancouver Canucks 7:00 PM CT (FS-N+)
Thursday, December 17th - Minnesota Wild vs New York Rangers 7:00 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI)
Saturday, December 19th - Minnesota Wild @ Nashville Predators 7:00 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI)
Game of the Week
After starting the season 16-3-2, the Rangers have gone an abysmal 2-6-2 in their past 10 games, which means Minnesota could be smelling blood going into Thursday night's match-up. That said, the Rangers, while an Original Six team, are an Eastern Conference opponent, and won't register a blip on Minnesota's radar unless it comes down to a Stanley Cup Final clash. This week's GOTW goes to the Saturday night showdown in Nashville.
As mentioned earlier above, the Preds are just one point behind Minnesota in the standings, but may have a few things going against them going into Saturday night. 1.) The Wild are a West-best 7-3-4 against the Central Division. 2.) While Nashville is a very impressive 5-1-1 against the Pacific, they've struggled against divisional rivals with a 3-4-0 record in seven games against arguably the toughest division in the league. 3.) The Predators are just 4-4-2 in their past-10, but that could change for better or worse this week.
Regardless of team or individual statistics, Minnesota vs Nashville is always a fun, gritty affair, and provides quality hockey entertainment.
Key Player of the Week
The Wild have been pulling out points on a nightly basis lately, but there are still many players that need to step up their game. Even with a pool of talented youngsters, the team goes the direction of their leaders. Ryan Suter has stepped up his game this season, as has KapFinn Mikko Koivu, but, while Koivu may be the team's drive, Zach Parise is the club's heart and soul. Fortunately for the team, Parise seems to be back on track with two goals and five points, a plus-4 rating and 20 shots on goal in a four-game active point streak. He has 15 points in 20 games this season, including a team second-best nine goals, just one behind Thomas Vanek.
Key Opponent of the Week
Nashville's Pekka Rinne is tied with Ottawa's Craig Anderson and Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky for the most games played by a goaltender this season (25), but is on track for one of his worst statistical seasons ever with a 2.43 goals against average and .907 save percentage. Perhaps the hulking Finn is no longer the brick wall Minnesota's nightmares are made of anymore. This week's KOOTW is a royal Swede. You might know him as King Henrik.
New York's Henrik Lundqvist is off to a very good start with a 14-6-3 record, a 2.14 goals against average, a .933 save percentage and two shutouts in one less appearance than Rinne. The Rangers may be anemic in recent games, but it's by no fault of Lundqvist. He'll be Minnesota's toughest opponent of the week, no question.