8:00 PM Central
Watch on: Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Wisconsin
Listen on: KFAN 100.3 FM, Wild Radio Network
After 6 weeks of truly dreadful hockey, miserable losses, and simmering frustrations that got coach Mike Yeo fired, the Wild could come back to Minnesota tonight with an honest-to-God winning streak. A win tonight makes it 3 in a row for the Wild, a feat they haven't accomplished in over two months.
I know, I know. It's weird to think it was possible, but here we are. All they have to do is dispel the woeful Edmonton Oilers tonight. Pretty easy, right?
Sure. The Oilers don't consistently finish with the #1 Overall pick in the draft for nothing. Despite having their pick of the litter in 4 of the last 5 drafts, the Oilers at 29th in the standings, with only the Toronto Maple Leafs standing in the way between them and maximum embarrassment.
Thing is, the Oilers might be one of those teams that are out of the playoffs, but suddenly click and go on a meaningless second-half run that gives their fans some hope (think Columbus last year). Since the calendar flipped to 2016, Edmonton's actually done decently in the possession battle, controlling a respectable 49.4% of the shots.
And there was a good chunk of that stretch where the Oilers were without Connor McDavid. McDavid returned at the start of February, and since then he's picked his game up where he left off when he broke his collarbone back in November, notching 4 goals and 9 assists in just 8 games since. That's insane production.
McDavid's having an historically great season right now. When you look at players who've debuted at teenagers in the last 30 years, the only players to exceed his current 1.19 Points per Game pace are Sidney Crosby and Eric Lindros. Let's not even look at the past, let's look at this year. McDavid is 2nd in the NHL in Points per Game now. In a time where scoring is down, this guy is destroying the league. He'll be a treat to watch tonight.
As for the Wild, after a very strong first effort in John Torchetti's coaching debut, the cracks showed a little bit last night. The Wild won 5-3 against the Flames, but Calgary did a lot to control play last night, manhandling Mikko Koivu's line and the Suter-Spurgeon defensive pairing. For this post-coach-firing winning streak to be more than a dead cat bounce, the Wild are going to have to take care of business and dominate these teams at the bottom of the standings.
But credit to Torchetti's Wild: They got a win while actually going through adversity. Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella were out. Jared Spurgeon's play last night suggests that he wasn't 100%. With the defensive corps weakened, the Wild managed to get two points, which is something that's a breath of fresh air, no matter how they played.
We'll see if the Wild are going to be able to get Scandella back tonight, and it'll be interesting to see if any players' ice time goes up from the previous two games. Erik Haula had a big night last night, along with his linemates Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter. Jason Zucker notched a short-handed goal. Nate Prosser played 21 minutes and was the only Wild player to have a positive shot attempt differential. Perhaps these were able to earn Torchetti's trust?
Anyway, rejoice Wild fans. Not only do you get to see Connor McDavid and a possible winning streak, but you'll get to see it start at 8 PM, which isn't so late. Stop by Hockey Wilderness for more updates throughout the day, as well as our Game Thread tonight.
Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek
Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville
Ryan Carter - Jarret Stoll - Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella - Mathew Dumba
Mike Reilly - Christian Folin
Benoit Pouliot - Connor McDavid - Jordan Eberle
Taylor Hall - Leon Draisaitl - Teddy Purcell
Nail Yakupov - Mark Letesu - Iiro Pakarinen
??? - Anton Lander - Matt Hendricks
Andrej Sekera - Justin Schultz
Darnell Nurse - Mark Fayne
Brandon Davidson - Eric Gryba
Special thanks to Hockey-Reference's Play Index for putting Connor McDavid's success in historical context.