It's an interesting time in hockey these days.
The women's game finally had an outdoor classic of their own - a 1-1 tie between Montreal's Les Canadiennes of the CWHL and the NWHL's Boston Pride. Team Canada missed out on U20 World Junior semifinals for the first time in 17 years thanks to the efforts of Wild goalie prospect Kaapo Kahkonen, and top-3 2016 NHL draft prospects Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine on the side of tourney host country Finland. Then there's the fact that marquee young names like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Drouin are reportedly all either on the block, or have requested trades out of town. Yes, life sure is interesting these days.
The Minnesota Wild currently sit fourth in the Central Division, and in the West's top wild card spot, with a 20-11-7 record and 47 points. As of this writing, the club is just one point behind Chicago and three points behind St. Louis. Nashville is right behind the Wild with 45 points, and Colorado chases with 39. Winnipeg occupies the cellar with 18 wins and 38 points. And those pesky Stars?? Yeah, no one is catching them anytime soon.
This Week's Schedule
Tuesday, January 5th - Minnesota Wild @ Columbus Blue Jackets 6:00 PM CT (FS-N)
Thursday, January 7th - Minnesota Wild vs Philadelphia Flyers 7:00 PM CT (NBCSN)
Saturday, January 9th - Minnesota Wild @ Dallas Stars 7:00 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI)
Sunday, January 10th - Minnesota Wild vs New Jersey Devils 7:00 PM CT (NBCSN)
Game of the Week
Another week, another clash with Dallas. The Stars dominate the league standings with 28 wins and 60 points in 41 games played - that's a 120-point finish if they can keep it up. They're tough, and not made any easier when you consider the fact that Minnesota just hasn't been able to find a way to get ahead and stay ahead against Dallas. Throw in the fact that this is the only divisional or even conference clash of the week, and it's not hard to see why this is the most important match of the week.
Key Player of the Week
When looking at Corsi and Fenwick numbers, the past four years have been the best of KapFinn Mikko Koivu's career. Since 2012-13, the franchise's all-time leading scorer has averaged a CF% of 58.2%, and a FF% of 58.3%. He's driving possession, and finally seeing the rewards of his efforts in offensive production, collecting 10 goals, a team-leading 32 points, a plus-4 rating, four power play goals, a shorthanded goal, a game-winning goal and 66 shots on goal for a 15.15% shooting percentage.
The Wild's 32-year-old captain is currently on pace for 22 goals and 69 points, which would make the 2015-16 season the second greatest of his career. Minnesota would certainly love to see the pace continue, and a career outing against the Stars on Saturday would be greatly appreciated. We'll take a pair of goals, two assists and, uh, did y'all want fries with that?
Key Opponent of the Week
I swear, when it comes to Dallas, all I need to do is cut, copy and paste. (Yes, I really did copy and paste from the last Dallas clash, except for a few statistical tweaks, of course.) You know them, you loathe them - Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg. Yeesh. That trio is enough to strike fear into the heart of the most stalwart NHL netminder. BennSegBerg combined for six goals, 16 points and a plus-12 rating in the previous three games between Minnesota and Dallas, and they're practically guaranteed to etch their way onto Monday Saturday night's score board, as well.
Benn, Seguin and Klingberg rank 2nd, 3rd and 12th in league point scoring, respectively, combining for 52 goals, 139 points, a plus-50 rating, 16 power play goals, 42 power play points, two shorthanded goals, four shorthanded points, eight game-winning goals, three overtime goals and 364 shots on goal (for a shooting percentage of 14.3 per cent) in 41 games. Got all that? Good. Yes, they are too - very good.
It's a tough match-up to begin with, made all the worse by three of the NHL's elite. Dubnyk, Koivu, Parise, Ryan Suter and Co. will be in for another tough night within the Central Division.