MINNESOTA WILD VS WINNIPEG JETS
3PM 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
After 2 straight losses for the first time this season the Wild bounced back with a win in St. Paul on Wednesday. Eric Staal and Matt Dumba lead the charge for the Wild with a pair of goals each in a 6-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators.
Though the Wild won and got their two points, it was an ugly two points. After playing two solid periods and leading 4-1 after two frames, the Wild surrendered their 3-goal lead to the Senators. Luckily enough for the Wild, the Senators defensive group is not very good defensively (they’re dead last in the NHL) and Eric Staal managed to recapture the lead for the Wild late in the 3rd period with a nice feed from line mate Jason Zucker.
Now, the Wild face a tougher challenge. Their Central Division rival Winnipeg Jets are in town for the first game of four to be played this season. The Jets are only 2 points behind the Wild in the standings with two games in hand on the Wild. So, today’s matinee game is as close to a “4-point game” as a game can get. With a win the Wild can push their division lead over the Jets to 4 points.
Last season, the Wild had a difficult time with the Jets, losing 7 of 9 games, including regular season and playoffs. Both of Minnesota’s wins came on home ice, so at least the Wild have that going for them today.
Last season, the Jets marched their way all the way to the Western Conference Finals and seemed like a safe bet to beat the Vegas Golden Knights. On paper, the Jets looked better but in the playoffs how you look on paper means absolutely nothing. Vegas wiped the table and sent the Jets packing and heading home for the offseason after 5 games.
This season, the Jets are predicted to be one of the Stanley Cup favorites and so far, have not been disappointing, although they have yet to look very good through the first quarter of the season. The Jets currently sit 3rd in the division and tied for 7th in the league for points with 26 but many, including the Jets believe they can be a better team. A big measure of their success so far has lied on the Jets two losses to another Cup favorite, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Jets still do have many weapons and reaching their full potential shouldn’t be too far of a stretch when they have players like Patrik Laine, Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Dustin Byfuglien, and Jacob Trouba. The Wild should have their hands full today with all of that talent the Jets have.
To open the season Jets winger Patrik Laine scored just 3 goals in the first 12 games. Laine, a candidate in many ways that has the goal scoring ability near the Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. Many began to worry about his slow output. So, what would fix his slump? How about a two game series in his native country of Finland. Laine racked up 4 goals in two games against the Florida Panthers in Finland, including a hat-trick in the first game. Since Finland, Laine has 6 goals in 6 games and a season total of 13 goals putting himself on pace for 53 goals if he plays a full 82 game season. Keeping Laine off the goal sheet is pivotal for the Wild today.
Blake Wheeler is once again leading the way for the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets captain is leading them in scoring with 25 points (3g, 22a) and is on pace for a career high 102 points. Mark Scheifele didn’t take the first quarter of the season off as well, having 23 points (11g, 12a) to start the season. Scheifele, the Jets top center is also on pace for a career high in points as he is on track for 94 points if he stays healthy enough for an 82-game campaign.
Matt Dumba is on fire. It only took the 24-year-old 22 games to reach the double digit mark in goals and is now the current NHL leader for goals by a defenseman. Dumba did this of course by scoring 2 goals Wednesday against the Ottawa Senators. Now, with 10 goals in hand Dumba is only 4 goals away from tying his career best and is halfway to 20, a mark set out by Wild coach Bruce Boudreau this past offseason. Per NHL Stats, Dumba became the first NHL defenseman to reach 10 goals this season, a first in Wild franchise history. He also became just the sixth defenseman since 1989-90 to score 10 goals through his team’s first 22 games of a season, joining the list of Shea Weber (2008-09 w/ NSH), Al MacInnis (1997-98 w/ STL), Ray Bourque (1995-96 w/ BOS), Gary Suter (1995-96 w/ CHI), Jeff Brown (1992-93 w/ STL) as the only players to do so.
To say Nino Niederreiter’s season is going badly is an understatement. This year, Niederreiter was expected to have a bounce back year for the Wild and yet after a quarter of the season Niederreiter has found himself in the dumps. After putting up a measly 2 goals in the first 22 games, Wild bench boss Bruce Boudreau has elected to send Niederreiter a message by putting him on the 4th line. Today, the “Corsi-Legend” will spend his game on a line with Eric Fehr and J.T. Brown. Hopefully this can strike some fire under Niederreiter and get him back to the Nino Niederreiter the Wild payed him to be two offseasons ago.
No injuries for the Wild. (Hopefully this trend can continue) Devan Dubnyk is out today due to illness, per Michael Russo of The Athletic. The Wild have recalled goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen under emergency conditions from the Iowa Wild. Alex Stalock will get the start today.
The Jets have one injury in Dmitry Kulikov. Kulikov has not played since November 9th and is expected to be out for at least a month with an upper-body injury.
The Gamethread will post at 2:30 PM Central. Below are the projected lineups, thanks to DailyFaceoff.com.