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Minnesota Wild vs. New Jersey Devils: Game preview, TV schedule, start time

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The Wild are on the second game of a back-to-back to face off against the New Jersey Devils.

Today's gave vs. Cory Schneider and the Devils will be much different from last night's match-up vs. the high-flying Stars.
Today's gave vs. Cory Schneider and the Devils will be much different from last night's match-up vs. the high-flying Stars.
Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

MINvNJD


St. Paul is the center of the Minnesota sports world tonight, and all eyes will no doubt be glued upon tonight's historic match-up between the Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils. Fans all across the Land of 10,000 Lakes will be waiting with bated breath to see if Minnesota can make the leap from fourth place in the Central all the way to almost-third. Anyone who's anyone will be headed to the Xcel Energy Center tonight.

Or maybe not. Perhaps a bunch of you will be too busy grappling with the results of today's Vikings-Seahawks playoff matinee to head on down to the friendly (and relatively warm!) confines of the X to watch the Devils face-off against the Wild. And that's OK, I guess. But for those of you who will make it here, we've got... well, maybe not an exciting match-up, but one that has playoff implications for both teams involved.

The Devils are coming to the X tonight, and they're bringing with them the most stifling defense in the NHL. This is no surprise- even when they're not very good, defensive hockey has been in the DNA of the Devils for over two decades now. What's been the issue for the past few years is that for all of their defensive structure, they've had no offensive presence since Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise departed the team.

The Devils are now flirting with a Wild Card spot, but it's not because of a leap offensively. They're still near or at the bottom of every offensive category you can think of, but their defense has gotten even tighter this season. That combined with having one of the best goaltenders in the league in Cory Schnieder in net has allowed the Devils to win games in spite of their feeble offense. It also helps that they've gotten an unexpectedly good performance from Jersey-native Kyle Palmieri, acquired from Anaheim via trade at last year's draft. Through 42 games Palmieri already has a career-high 17 goals and a team-high 13 points on the power play.

But there's not much offense past that, and even fewer offensive players that are under the age of 30. The Devils have a good collection of young defensemen, but (like the Wild), their prospect pool has few impact forwards, and the ones that are highly-regarded will take a few years to arrive. New Jersey may be hanging around the Wild Card now, but perhaps their best course of action would be to get in a position to add some talented youth to their squad through the draft.

As for the Wild, they're nearing the end of a stretch of 8 games in 13 days and coming off a tough win in Dallas last night. It was a weird game, with Dallas getting the better of the play by a significant margin, but the Wild actually playing Dallas evenly when it came to quality chances. Who knows if that will be a repeatable formula in a potential playoff match. But tonight's game will be more suited to their style of play, and will be a good chance to get some work in for backup Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper has missed about a month with a concussion, but prior to that he was as good- if not better- than starter Devan Dubnyk. The last month and a half of brilliant play from Dubnyk has quieted any notion of a goalie controversy, but the Wild may finally have a capable backup, so long as Kuemper can stay healthy and confident.

As for the lineups, one line that shouldn't be shaken up right now is the combination of Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, and Jason Pominville. They haven't been scoring just yet, but they've done a really good job of getting quality chances over the last couple of games, as well as keeping the puck on the right side of the ice for the Wild. I'm not quite sure why that line has been working with Niederreiter flanking Granlund on the left wing, and not Parise, but it's been welcome to see Granlund looking good.

As for the defense, Mike Reilly debuted in a tough match-up last night, and didn't do much to acquit himself. Luckily for him, a goal allowed on a shift where he got the jitters was overturned by the officials, but he never seemed to settle down, and saw very little ice time. It might've been enough to scare the team from playing him tonight, but it'd be nice to see if he can settle down, and perhaps even get a short trial run on the power play.

Puck drops at 7:00 PM tonight, so let's take a look at the projected lineups, and of course, the Tale of the Tape.

Wild@DevilsJan10TotT

Projected Lineups

Minnesota Wild

Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

Zach Parise

Mikko Koivu

Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter

Mikael Granlund

Jason Pominville

Thomas Vanek

Charlie Coyle

Justin Fontaine

Ryan Carter

Jarret Stoll

Erik Haula

Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Ryan Suter

Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella

Mathew Dumba

Mike Reilly

Jonas Brodin

Goalies

Darcy Kuemper

Devan Dubnyk

New Jersey Devils

Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

Jiri Tlusty

Travis Zajac

Kyle Palmieri

Sergey Kalinin

Adam Henrique

Lee Stempniak

Stefan Matteau

Jim O'Brien

Paul Thompson

Bobby Farnham

Stephen Gionta

Jordin Tootoo

Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Andy Greene

Damon Severson

Marc-Andre Gragnani

Adam Larsson

Eric Gelinas

Jon Merrill

Goalies

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid