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The Wild will finally get some reinforcement(s) back in the lineup tonight

Marcus Foligno and his fiery eyeball will play; Mikael Granlund is a gametime decision against the Jets tonight in Winnipeg.

NHL: Preseason-Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

MINNESOTA WILD AT WINNIPEG JETS

7:00 PM Central, Bell MTS Place, Winnipeg, Manitoba

TV: Fox Sports-North

Radio: KFAN 100.3 and affiliates

Streaming: Fox Sports Go app

Minnesota has completed its several-day-long respite—already the third break of its kind this season—and finally returns to action tonight in The Peg. Though it’s been a miserably dull start to the ’17-’18 campaign for Wild fans, the long gaps between games have probably benefited the team immensely, because with so many players injured, the amount of actual competition being missed has been far less significant than if the team had been playing every-other day during this stretch. It will now begin to do that moving forward, so the depth will really be tested in the coming weeks, as we await the returns of Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, and Nino Niederreiter.

Somehow, with more than half of its top nine forwards injured, Minnesota avoided having to play games just long enough to get some key reinforcements back into the lineup. Marcus Foligno, whose face was broken by a wicked right hook last week in Chicago, is expected to return to action tonight with said fragile mug protected by a stylish birdcage.

Let’s go in for a closer look at that eye, shall we??

ENHANCING...

ENHANCING...

That is a hockey guy with a hockey eye!

Meanwhile, Mikael GROINlund is expected to be a gametime decision, but skated yesterday on his regular line with Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker in a practice jersey that indicated he was cleared for full contact and full participation.

WINNIPEG JETS

This is pretty much everything you need to know about the Winnipeg Jets so far this season:

Jets Goaltending Stats

PLAYER GS W L OT GAA SAVES SV%
PLAYER GS W L OT GAA SAVES SV%
Connor Hellebuyck 3 3 0 0 2.11 104 0.937
Steve Mason 3 0 3 0 5.96 88 0.846
NHL.com

…And this concludes our in-depth analysis of the Winnipeg Jets through six games of the 2017-2018 NHL season.

Ok, we’ll do a little more breaking down of our closest neighbors to the north, but that really does tell most of the story so far. Improvement in the goalcrease was very obviously the biggest need for this franchise during the offseason, so GM Kevin Cheveldayoff went out and signed Steve Mason to a two-year deal [slaps forehead]. As such, Jets fans have to be thrilled that Cheveldayoff accepted his multi-year contract extension in September.

While Mason has very much lived up to whatever the opposite of hype would be, Connor Hellebuyck looks like he’s figuring it out in his third NHL season. At 24 years old, he’s still very young by goaltender standards, but if he can maintain some semblance of consistency for this organization throughout the course of the season, Winnipeg should actually have a pretty good year.

The fact of the matter is that despite the question marks that have all but blotted out the blue paint in front of Winnipeg’s goal, there is an immense amount of offensive talent on this squad. Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers are underrated stud goal scorers, Blake Wheeler is now an accomplished veteran captain, and Patrik Laine is in a world of his own. Ehlers, by the way, had 25 goals last season, already has five this season, and was signed to a seven-year deal worth $42 million over the summer… all pretty decent for a 21-year-old. And yet, those impressive numbers still don’t hold a candle to Laine’s 36 goals and 28 assists as a 19-year-old.

It’s a quality group that just needs a save once in a while, so we’ll see if Hellebuyck can be the guy for this franchise in the long term. And if he isn’t, then maybe Steve Mason can… ah, just forget it.

The Jets are coming off of a 5-2 home drubbing at the hands of Minnesota’s most recent opponent, the Columbus Blue Jackets. That one featured a classically leaky Mason, so expect to see Hellebuyck in net tonight.

Claude Lemieux’s son, Brendan Lemieux, whom the Wild saw in pre-season, is expected to make his NHL debut tonight.

STORYLINES

Though the Wild has clearly yet to play to its potential and has already experienced more injury trouble than it did all last season, it is truly a few lucky bounces from having a 4-0-0 record this season. Sure, that may be a bit optimistic, but looking back at the team’s three losses, it had a chance to win all of them, including in the generally poor effort in Carolina. The Wild led against the ’Canes but couldn’t hold on, and it had a chance to steal back a victory in the shootout that night. Even in the most recent game, Minnesota had Columbus up against the ropes—despite having a significant portion of the Iowa Wild in its lineup—holding 3-1 and 4-2 leads at various stages before ultimately falling 5-4. It’s a trend that needs to get nipped in the bud early in the season, as this team tries to weather the injury storm as long as it can. Minnesota simply can’t afford to cough up points when it has them in its grasp.

Both Foligno and Granlund would be huge boosts to this club right now. The minor leaguers performed admirably in the last game, with Landon Ferraro even pitching in a greasy goal, but Foligno has looked good in a Wild uniform and Granlund was the team’s top scorer last season. IF Granlund returns to the lineup, that means that Koivu and Zucker get their lynchpin playmaker back, and Minnesota will have a full line that looks like it belongs together for the first time in what feels like an eternity. Everyone send positive groin vibes toward Mikael as he prepares for tonight’s game. If you don’t know what positive groin vibes are, I wouldn’t recommend Googling it.

If Granlund does play, we’ll see Kunin and (I’m guessing) Ferraro as the two most-recent Iowa residents in the lineup, though DailyFaceoff says otherwise. If Granlund doesn’t play, then we’ll see Kunin, Ferraro, and Zack Mitchell, who was also recalled as insurance, in which case the forward lines are anyone’s guess.

INJURIES

No news on the Coyle and Niederreiter fronts. Also no update on Parise, who apparently saw a doctor about his “undisclosed” injury, as per Jessi Pierce in The Athletic yesterday. Hopefully I’ll never again have to talk about the Granny Groiny.

Though not to the same extent in terms of impacting the core of the team, the Jets have some injury woes as well, with Adam Lowry, Mathieu Perreault, Matt Hendricks, and Dmitry Kulikov all on the shelf currently.

The Gamethread will post at 6:30PM Central. I know you’ve all been itching to talk hockey, so swing on by. Below are the projected lineups, thanks to DailyFaceoff.com.