MINNESOTA WILD VS OTTAWA SENATORS
7PM Central, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota
TV: Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Wisconsin
Radio: KFAN 100.3 and affiliates
Streaming: Fox Sports Go, NHL.tv
Just as we were all gaining confidence in the Wild and were optimistic about the future—thinking this time it’s different—the Wild dropped two in a row and three of the past four, with all the losses coming due to lack of scoring. Sound familiar, Wild fans?
Sunday’s 3-1 loss against the Blackhawks marked the first time this season the Wild have lost two consecutive games in regulation. A slow start for the Wild gave the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead after the first, and the Wild were unable to come back from it. Zach Parise’s lone goal was simply not enough to beat a Blackhawks team that had only 1 win in its previous 10 games.
A new week means a fresh start for the Wild (12-7-2), as they look to snap their current skid and take advantage of a weaker opponent in the Ottawa Senators (9-9-3).
The Wild went 2-0-0 last season against the Senators with a 6-4 win at Canadian Tire Centre (12/19) and a 3-1 victory at Xcel Energy Center (1/22). Eric Staal led the way with a total of 4 points in the season series against Ottawa, potting 2 goals and 2 assists.
The Ottawa Senators were supposed to be a dumpster fire this season, but as they currently sit only four points out of a wild card spot, they have somewhat surprised the hockey world. After trading their captain and quite possibly the best defenseman in the world in Erik Karlsson as well as embattled 20-goal scorer Mike Hoffman, nobody gave the Senators much of a chance. Though they still may not have much of a chance, this is a game the Wild should take seriously.
Since the Uber Scandal, the Senators have quietly gone 4-3-0 and Matt Duchene might be the hottest player in the NHL, playing some of the best hockey of his career. Duchene currently ranks fifth in the league in scoring with 27 points (10g, 17a). In his last 5 games he has racked up 11 points and has had a 3-point game in 3 of the last 5 contests.
The other forward the Wild need to keep an eye on is Mark Stone. The 26-year-old forward has 24 points (9g, 15a) coming into tonight’s game and has a point in 9 of his past 10 games. Stone is always a scoring threat when on the ice and should set up for a good matchup against the Mikko Koivu line.
One of the biggest surprises of the season, though, is the unexpected emergence of the Senators defensive unit (at least offensively). After trading Karlsson, most would think the group would struggle to contribute, but that has not been the case. The Senators defense is currently tied for 1st in the NHL with the Wild for goals by defensemen this season with 18 each. Stopping the opponents from scoring, however, has been quite the challenge for this blueline, as the Senators have given up the most goals in the league (88) and the most goals against per game (4.19).
For the first time this season the Wild’s defensive unit will look a little different tonight, as reported by The Athletic. The top pairing of Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba is being broken up after a rough night this past Sunday against the Blackhawks, and having sub-par efforts in 3 of the past four games. The old reliable pair of Suter and Jared Spurgeon will be reunited once more in an attempt to get a spark from the back end. Good buddies Dumba and Jonas Brodin will be reunited to make up the second pairing.
The Central Division is one of, if not the toughest divisions in the NHL, and with a lot of games tonight, a shuffle could happen. Every team in the division has a game tonight. Winnipeg is at Calgary, Colorado is at Los Angeles, Dallas is at Pittsburgh, Chicago is at Washington, and St. Louis is at Nashville. Other than the division leading Predators, the Wild are the only team at home tonight and could use a win before Thanksgiving. With a victory, the Wild could potentially leap to second in the division and gain a 4-point cushion on the Avalanche and Stars, barring wins from them. It is early, but you know what they say... games in November matter just as much as games in early April.
Cross your fingers... The Wild are currently healthy. Although Marcus Foligno was helped off the ice after taking a Brent Seabrook cannon to the right leg, the X-ray results were negative and Foligno should be ready to go tonight.
The Senators have a couple of players on the IR right now but nobody that can really shift the table for them. Forward Ben Harpur has a back injury and his timetable for return is indefinite. The other players on the Sens IR have yet to play a game this season. Jean-Gabriel Pageau tore his achilles in the preseason and is expected to miss 4 to 6 months. Ex-Wild speedster Marion Gaborik is out indefinitely with a back injury, and some say his days in the NHL are over. That is really quite sad, coming from a Wild fan that watched “Gabby” fly all over the ice and dominate as a youngster.
The Gamethread will post at 6:30PM Central. Below are the projected lineups, thanks to DailyFaceoff.com and Michael Russo of the Athletic.