The Minnesota Wild begin their three-game road trip today against the Ottawa Senators. Both teams are — to put it mildly — not doing great. To be fair, the Senators are only doing just a bit better than the Wild, and by a “bit better,” I mean one win. That’s it. The Senators are off to a 1-3-0 start for the season, while the Wild, as we’re all painfully aware, are 0-4-0. Both teams are looking for a much-needed win during the midday matchup on Canadian Thanksgiving.
The biggest concern for Minnesota, aside from the glaringly obvious, is that they may be playing without Mats Zuccarello, as he did not practice yesterday. The absence was a maintenance day but the forward was termed as questionable for today’s game. Zuccarello has struggled to make an impact for the team through the first four games of the season, but is still poised to be a breakout player — any second now. He’s registered a goose egg for points and has come away with a -1 rating in the previous three games and a startling -3 in the season opener against the Nashville Predators. This is not the Mats Zuccarello who dazzled for the Dallas Stars in the postseason. However, it’s early days and it may be that the Norwegian forward just needs to shake off the rust and adjust to the early winter temperatures in St. Paul.
Even if Zuccarello does lace up for Minnesota, the team will be adjusting to new lines thanks to the addition of Gerald Mayhew. The 26-year-old forward was recalled on Sunday morning from the team’s AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild and may slot into today’s lineup. Mayhew could be the spark needed to help Minnesota “do that hockey” against Ottawa this afternoon, as he’s been riding the high from his 60-point campaign last season into the beginning of this one. He’s recorded six points (three goals, three assists) in three games, which is the more than the entirety of the Minnesota roster can boast. Only the superhero known as Brad Hunt is close to Mayhew’s totals, with four points in as many games.
Alex Stalock may get the start in net over Devan Dubnyk, after Dubnyk allowed five goals from the Pittsburgh Penguins in Minnesota’s home opener on Saturday evening. Dubnyk has started all four of Minnesota’s games and remained in net for the three prior to Saturday. Dubnyk may be the backup on the bench to begin the road trip and be in the starting lineup after today’s matchup.
Meanwhile, the Senators will be looking to replicate what hockey magic they conjured up in Saturday’s shock win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, where they scored four goals to best Tampa Bay’s two. It’s been their only win of the season, and a much-needed ego boost as the victory comes over the reigning Presidents’ Trophy champions.
The Wild will need to keep their line changes short and their defense focused on Vladislav Namestnikov if they hope to stifle the Senators’ breakout star and keep him off the scoresheet. Namestnikov has tallied four points in two games, split evenly between two goals and two assists. The young forward has certainly made a big impact on the struggling roster since Ottawa acquired him from the New York Rangers a week ago. He and Brady Tkachuk are the only Senators with more than a goal on their individual stats.
Craig Anderson is expected to get the nod to start in net for Ottawa, as he’s started all four of Ottawa’s previous games. His percentages aren’t that far off of the Minnesota tandem, with a .882 save percentage and 3.71 goals allowed on average.
Project lineup for Minnesota can be found below. The Ottawa lineup was not available prior to the game.
Minnesota Wild Lineup
Zach Parise (11) - Mikko Koivu (9) - Jason Zucker (16)
Kevin Fiala (22) - Eric Staal (12) - Ryan Hartman (38)
Marcus Foligno (17) - Joel Eriksson Ek (14) - Kunin (19)
Matt Dumba (24) - Brad Hunt (77)
Jared Spurgeon (46) - Ryan Suter (20)
Jonas Brodin (25) - Carson Soucy (21)
Alex Stalock (32)
The game will begin at 12 p.m. CT. You can watch it on Fox Sports North and listen on the radio station KFAN FM 100.3.