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Minnesota Wild vs. Winnipeg Jets: Game preview, how to watch, projected lineups

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Winnipeg (and their fans) invade the Xcel Energy Center for tonight's matchup.

Dustin Byfuglien has been a thorn in the Wild's side in these last few years.
Dustin Byfuglien has been a thorn in the Wild's side in these last few years.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports


Last year, Winnipeg surprised most of the league by making the playoffs, even while playing in the very tough Central Division.Though they were dismantled in four games by the Anaheim Ducks, Winnipeg looked like they were a team on the way up, complimenting a solid roster with one of the best prospect pools in the league.

Fast-forward to now, and it's a different story. Winnipeg has fallen to last place in the Central, and is watching their playoff hopes vanish. Compounded with pending free agency for two of their most important players, what could've been a good season may be getting uglier than it is now.

But why has Winnipeg dropped off? They returned basically the same team, with Michael Frolik being the only major loss. They brought back Alexander Burmistrov, who returned from his self-imposed exile to Russia. They brought Danish sniper and top prospect Nikolaj Ehlers into the mix. And this wasn't like Colorado from two years ago- this is a good team.

Except for one glaring weakness: their goaltending. Ondrej Pavelec has been long-considered one of the worst starting goalies in the league, and his performance dipped from last year, where he actually posted decent numbers. And whenever they'd try to bring backup Michael Hutchinson in, he would actually perform worse than Pavelec.

But luckily for them, they have a solution: 22-year-old Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets initially resorted him due to injury, but he's looking poised to stay on the roster for the rest of the season, posting a .928 Save% and winning 10 times in 17 games. It's always going to be a concern whether a goalie that young will be able to handle such a heavy, stressful workload, but Hellebuyck isn't a flash in the pan. He's long been considered a top-tier goalie prospect, and he's laid waste to the AHL as well as the NHL.

There might be a familiar story brewing in Winnipeg. A solid team gets killed by their goaltending play, then adds a goalie who can actually stop the puck. Where have I heard that before?

Winnipeg will be coming off a back-to-back (and played in overtime, at that), so all bets are off as to where they'll be at tonight. Unless Minnesota's the only team that really has issues with that.

Speaking of Minnesota, the Wild have had some struggles in the month of January, which may or may not have had to do with a stretch of 8 games in 13 days. It could also do with the fact that they've just been bad lately. It's one of those two. We'll find out which, because the Wild actually have had two days off. Like, in a row and everything.

The Wild are desperate to try to re-ignite their offense in any way, going almost a month without scoring 4+ goals on a team not named "Columbus". The only players with multiple goals in January are Zach Parise (5), Thomas Vanek (2), and Jason Zucker (2). For all of Mike Yeo's line-blending, there has yet to be a winning combination for the Wild's forwards as of late.

Since the Wild are starting a back-to-back tonight, it's a safe bet that Darcy Kuemper will play one of those two games, but expect Devan Dubnyk to get the nod tonight. As important as it is for Dubnyk to get his rest, he also seems to thrive on regular playing time, so putting him in net as soon as possible makes sense.

That's pretty much it until we get more information, so let's throw it to tonight's projected lineups.

Projected Lineups

Minnesota Wild

Left Wing


Right Wing

Zach Parise

Mikko Koivu

Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter

Mikael Granlund

Jason Pominville

Thomas Vanek

Charlie Coyle

Justin Fontaine

Erik Haula

Faceoff Boi

Ryan Carter

Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Ryan Suter

Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella

Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin

Nate Prosser


Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Winnipeg Jets

Left Wing


Right Wing

Drew Stafford

Bryan Little

Blake Wheeler

Andrew Ladd

Adam Lowry

Alexander Burmistrov

Nikolaj Ehlers

Mathieu Perrault

Chris Thorburn

Joel Armia "of Darkness"

Andrew Copp

Anthony Peluso

Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Jacob Trouba

Dustin Byfuglien

Tobias Enstrom

Tyler Myers

Mark Stuart

Ben Chiarot


Connor Hellebuyck

Michael Hutchinson