The Minnesota Wild have three games on the schedule this week, one against a divisional rival. As of this Sunday night writing, Minnesota sits fourth in the Central Division with 18 wins and 42 points, two behind third-place Chicago, two ahead of Nashville in the West's second wild card spot, and seven ahead of Arizona and Colorado, the next closest teams in the playoff race. It's certainly not terrible, but there's always room for improvement.
This Week's Schedule
Monday, December 28th - Minnesota Wild vs Detroit Red Wings 7:00 PM CT (FS-N+)
Thursday, December 31st - Minnesota Wild @ St. Louis Blues 7:00 PM CT (FS-N)
Saturday, January 2nd - Minnesota Wild @ Tampa Bay Lightning 6:00 PM CT (FS-N+)
Game of the Week
Right now, the Blues sit second in the Central with 48 points. Minnesota and St. Louis have played just twice so far this season, with the Wild going 1-0-1 in that span. The Blues hold a slight advantage in shots on goal, while Minnesota has had a slim advantage in the face-off circle. It's a divisional opponent, will sure to be a physical and defensive affair, and both teams have the goaltending and fire power to make it a duel or sniper's paradise, respectively.
Key Player of the Week
The Wild aren't exactly in dire circumstances, but there are a number of players that we'd love to see step up their game. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek have all been leaders this season, and goaltender Darcy Kuemper has stepped up beautifully when called upon. Lately, one of the club's most consistent players has been third line pivot Charlie Coyle.
ChAHlie hasn't been on a streak per say, but he has had two goals, four points, a plus-4 rating and 11 shots on goal in his past five games. His face-off percentage has been atrocious this season, but "Chowdah" seems to have found some successful chemistry with fellow 2010 first round pick Nino Niederreiter, and Justin Fontaine. They're not blowing away goaltenders on a nightly basis, but Coyle and Niederreiter are both big men that manage the puck well with excellent stick handling ability and moose-like physicality.
Will Coyle's recent success continue? Too tough to say, but I like what I've been seeing (face-offs aside). Through 34 games played, the hulking 6'3" 221-pound center has eight goals, 17 points and a plus-5 rating, which are good enough for seventh best on the team.
Key Opponent of the Week
You know him, you envy the team that has him - it's got to be St. Louis sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. Through 36 games, the Blues young gun is tied with Dallas' Jamie Benn for first in the league with 22 goals. His 39 points have him in a two-way tie with Edmonton's Taylor Hall for fifth in league point scoring. Tarasenko is downright nasty, and can prove it with seven power play goals, 12 power play points and four game-winning goals, including one in overtime. Simply put, this is the guy to watch this week, folks.