Three games in. Zero wins. Zero points. And zero indication that the Minnesota Wild will turn things around in front of a hometown crowd as the dangerous (yet also currently struggling) Pittsburgh Penguins come to town.
As we mentioned Friday, the only real shred of hope that Wild fans can cling to is that, historically, Minnesota plays very well in their home openers, having won 13 of 18 games, and earning points in all but one. We looked back at some of the most memorable Wild home openers on Friday, so check that out to recall some happier times.
The current Wild, however, are another story. They’ve been outscored 14-6 in their three road games to open the season. They’re 30th in goals scored. Devan Dubnyk has a horrendous .882 save percentage. Marquee free agent acquisition Mats Zuccarello has yet to get on the scoresheet and sits as a minus-5 on the plus/minus.
Looking for a bright side? Well, it’s not much of one, but it’s this — the Pittsburgh Penguins have had their own struggles to start the season. Granted, the Pens have won two of their first four, but to hear the guys at PensBurgh say it, Pittsburgh hasn’t look incredibly inspired in doing it. They’ve had little jump and have been unable to put together three solid periods of hockey.
At least the Penguins have injury woes that they can blame some of that lack of effort on, playing without Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bjugstad, Bryan Rust and Alex Galchenyuk. The Wild have been almost completely healthy, save third-pairing defenseman Greg Pateryn.
Thankfully for the Wild, they had a chance to rest a bit at home after a maintenance issue delayed their arrival at MSP until 3 a.m. on Friday morning. Zuccarello, Jason Zucker and Luke Kunin reportedly missed practice on Friday, but head coach Bruce Boudreau confirmed that all three were taking a maintenance day, and should be good to go for Saturday night’s tilt. Speaking of Boudreau, he’s got to feel the heat under his posterior after three straight losses to begin the season.
The Wild have not announced their exact lines for Saturday’s game, but they have announced that Victor Rask will make his season debut. A healthy-scratch the first three games, the forward with a less than successful start to his Wild career finally draws into the lineup. How Rask plays in his season debut will be one of the major things to watch tonight. Does he play like he has something to prove after being kept out of the lineup? Or does he play like someone who was kept out for a reason? Ryan Donato will take his place in the press box as the healthy scratch. Per comments from Bruce Boudreau, Luke Kunin will slide over to the right wing, presumably pushing Jordan Greenway back to the left side. That leaves the Wild lines looking something like this:
Foligno - Staal - Fiala
Zucker - Koivu - Zuccarello
Parise - Rask - Kunin
Greenway - Eriksson Ek - Hartman
Suter - Dumba
Brodin - Spurgeon
Soucy - Hunt
At the time of publication, the Penguins had not yet announced their lines for Saturday’s game, which might be because they’re still trying to find warm bodies to put on the bench. We’ll update this story if that changes.
As of their last games, here’s what they went with:
Guentzel - Crosby - Simon
Kahun - McCann - Hornqvist
Aston-Reese - Blueger - Tanev
A. Johnson - Agozzino - Lafferty
Dumoulin - Letang
Petterson - Schultz
J. Johnson - Marino
The scheduled start is at 7:30 p.m. Fans can watch the game on FSN-North, or listen as always on 100.3 KFAN radio.