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Preview: Wild go south to visit Panthers

It’s beeeeeen a whiiiiiiiile, since they have played each other.

2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s always tough to keep momentum going when you transition from an at-home domination to a road trip that starts thousands of miles away against a significantly more tough opponent. For the Minnesota Wild, they will need to harness all that good-feeling energy by kicking the rival Dallas Stars to the curb via a 7-2 win, to shifting their focus to a formidable foe in the Florida Panthers.

Before the season, the Panthers were slotted as one of the easy lay-up Stanley Cup pick if you wanted to appear very knowledgeable and not pick the boring Colorado Avalanche or opt for a Tampa Bay Lightning three-peat. Built around franchise cornerstones Sasha Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, and Jonathan Huberdeau, the Panthers took scraps from other teams and made them excel at exactly what they do best — skate up the ice with the puck and try to score off the rush. It’s unfortunate that that is one of the Wild’s defensive weaknesses, as we have seen far too many opposing odd-man rushes to really be comfortable with. Whether it’s head coach Dean Evason giving “free rein” to the blue line and not having the split-second communication for forwards to cover defensively, or just some big ol’ brain farts, it’s been concerning at times.

The Panthers have earned six of their last eight available points, and that includes wins over the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders by a collective score of 10-2 at home. Not great! Hopefully the Wild can shake things up.

Cam Talbot starts this first of a back-to-back and the lineup is staying the same:

Fiala - Hartman - Zuccarello
Greenway - Eriksson Ek - Foligno
Kaprizov - Rask - Gaudreau
Duhaime - Sturm - Pitlick

Goligoski - Spurgeon
Brodin - Dumba
Merrill - Kulikov

See you at 5:00 p.m.

Burning Questions

Will Kaprizov continue the hot streak?

There’s been enough said about Kirill’s supposed “slow start” — and his teammates disagree to that sentiment anyway — but with him bursting on the score sheet with four points against the Dallas Stars on Thursday, there is certainly a bar of expectation for him to maybe rejuvenate his production.

Now, is it certainly more tough to get those points against the Panthers compared to the Stars? Oh hell yes. But is Kaprizov known to kind of show up to this big matches? Well, yeah and he has done it enough before.

Can Duhaime excel in his homecoming?

Brandon Duhaime, native of South Florida, is making a return to his home region and playing in front of family and friends tonight.

After his impressive debut as essentially an unknown committedly and turning into one of the Wild’s best depth forwards, Duhaime has been relied upon to bring a different level of energy than most. Whether that continues throughout the entire season is still to be seen, but maybe a little spark of playing in front of familiar faces can carry him longer.

Will Kevin Fiala have a redemption game?

Dean Evason was frankly pissed off at Fiala’s performance in their massive 7-2 win over the Stars.

As Kaprizov stole the spotlight, Fiala was not even a second or third thought and did not play well enough to even earn more opportunities to get on the score sheet. Can that change against the Panthers? We shall see, but at least the coach is keeping his star-studded line to give him that boost.