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Wild @ Panthers: Game preview, TV schedule, start time

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A full breakdown of today's match-up vs. the red-hot Florida Panthers, including some unbelievable Jaromir Jagr facts.

Zach Parise's back, but is he healthy enough to make a positive impact on the Wild's lineup?
Zach Parise's back, but is he healthy enough to make a positive impact on the Wild's lineup?
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

MINvFLA

One of the biggest surprises in the NHL this season has been the Florida Panthers. Granted- they were a decent young team last season, but few expected them to make any real noise back in October.

Now they're one of the hottest teams in the league, neck-and-neck with Montreal for the Atlantic Division lead, and winners of 8 in a row. Their success so far this season has no doubt contributed to extensions to both GM Dale Tallon and Head Coach Gerard Gallant.

While Florida's middling possession numbers don't suggest that they should be quite this good, but there are things that should give Panthers fans hope that they'll finish atop the Atlantic Division. The first big factor is in net. Roberto Luongo is 36 but he's playing like he's still in his prime this year, posting a .929 Sv% over 31 games. Having a rock like that in net does a lot to mitigate other issues.

The other thing that suggests they'll be able to maintain their play is their youth. When you look at this team- especially up front- you see an amazing collection of youth, with 7 forwards in their Top-9 age-25 or less. Players like Aleksander Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Jonathan Huberdeau should only be expected to improve from here. They're also blessed with quite a bit of size- there are few players on that roster under 6'0".

As for the Wild, they were lucky to salvage a point last night at Tampa. They came out insanely sluggish, and were helped not one bit by Zach Parise's decision to return despite clearly being hampered by the knee injury that kept him out against the Blues. While Parise was some incidental contact away from scoring a power play goal last night, he was largely ineffective in his 24 minutes last night. Only Mikael Granlund finished with a worse shot attempt differential than Parise's -13. It's hard to imagine him suddenly being effective on the second day of a back-to-back, especially with 24 minutes of workload on that knee.

Also hard to imagine is Justin Fontaine slotting back into the lineup. Getting benched after getting an assist on Thursday was a surprise, and if getting on the scoresheet can't get him out of the doghouse, eating popcorn in the press box probably won't. Rightly or (more likely) wrongly, Jarret Stoll has Mike Yeo's complete trust right now, seeing almost 14 minutes last night, including a shift in the 3v3 overtime.

We'll have more information as it becomes available- in particular, whether or not Nick Bjugstad will return to Florida's lineup. But for now, here's what the lines might be tonight, as well as the Tale of the Tape.

MIN@FLA Jan 3 TotT

Projected Lines


Minnesota Wild


Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

Injured Zach Parise

Mikael Granlund

Thomas Vanek

Jason Zucker

Mikko Koivu

Charlie Coyle

Nino Niederreiter

Erik Haula

Jason Pominville

Chris Porter

Jarret Stoll

Ryan Carter


Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Ryan Suter

Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella

Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin

Nate Prosser


Goalies

Devan Dubnyk

Niklas Backstrom (by default)


Florida Panthers


Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

Jonathan Huberdeau

Aleksander Barkov

Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen

Vincent Trocheck

Reilly Smith

Brandon Pirri

Corban Knight

Logan Shaw

Quinton Howden

Derek MacKenzie

Shawn Thornton


Left Defensemen

Right Defensemen

Brian Campbell

Erik Gudbranson

Dmitry Kulikov

Aaron Ekblad

Willie Mitchell

Alex Petovic


Goalies

Al Montoya

Roberto Luongo