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Preview: Wild host Jets in heated matinee

It’s going to be a fun little afternoon delight.

Winnipeg Jets v Minnesota Wild Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

Get your turkey leftovers on your sandwich and get ready for this post-lunch game between hopeful cross-border rivals as the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets face each other for the second time this season.

The first game—the Wild’s third game of the season—was a classic Minnesota comeback match where they scored two goals in the final five minutes of regulation to then climb back on the haunches of Joel Eriksson Ek’s hat trick to win it in overtime. It was one of the most memorable games of the season, and it still truly holds up as a fantastic moment of “oh yeah, this team is real.”

Now some weeks later, the Wild are still standing at the top of the Central Division, three points clear of the surging Avalanche, Jets, and Blues. Will they stay there by the time the calendars turn? Well tonight might be a large factor in that likelihood.

The Jets are good, have been good, and probably will be good for a season or two more. They have one of the league’s best goaltenders in Connor Hellebuyck (who will be in between the pipes against the Wild this afternoon) and some forwards that can overcome their blue line woes dramatically. They’re like the opposite Wild when it comes to the skaters, as their on-paper stars are underperforming somewhat and in Minnesota, dudes are just playing their ass off out of nowhere.

The typical jets forwards will get their fair share of attention defensively from the Wild—Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Kyle Connor. All of those dudes are capable of breaking a game and just being a complete pain in the ass for a blue line that is missing their most stable player in captain Jared Spurgeon.

It is still to be determined if they keep the combinations that they have been playing with against the Devils and Lightning, or if Jordie Benn will make way for Calen Addison to finally get some long awaited (two games) game time since he’s been recalled. His speed and playmaking from the back could really be a benefit against a team that will be banking on rush chances; so if the Wild can counterattack well enough and Addison keeps the puck active in transition, it could be an antidote to the Jets plan of attack.

Even though the line combinations didn’t appear to work against the shot-hungry Devils, coach Dean Evason might just end up sticking by them. The typical trio of Eriksson Ek, Foligno and Greenway is stable enough to put against the Jets’ top-six, and Kaprizov has been playing well enough that Ryan Hartman deserves to be there to forecheck like a mad man, and he gets to stay with his buddy Mats. In the depths, Fiala and Gaudreau seems like a lock (to a fault, sometimes) and Rem Pitlick has certainly surprised in games as of late. And epecially considering Nick Bjugstad’s amount of in-tight chances in New Jersey, he should be staying in the lineup on the fourth line with Brandon Duhaime and Nico Sturm; leaving Victor Rask as a healthy scratch yet again. I can’t see them changing it up too much to start this five-game homestand.

Talbot should be in net for this one, considering the opponent.

See you this afternoon at 2:30 p.m.

Burning Questions

Can they score the first goal?

It’s obviously been a well-discussed theme for the Wild this season (and last), that they just love to come back from a multi-goal deficit. But I would be remiss if them scoring two first-period goals and leaving the ice up 2-to-zip after 20 minutes against the Devils, made me feel much more comfortable.

Back in their first matchup, the Wild and Jets were trading off goals exactly one-for-one until Winnipeg got two straight in the third, to which Minnesota answered with those two late-game goals to force overtime. It’s just this even offensive matchup that hopefully we can get rid of and the Wild can build on a multi-goal lead themselves.

Will we see another superman punch from Foligno?

Okay, maybe not a superman punch specifically, but these teams absolutely hate each other and it was put on full display when Marcus went to leap and strike Brenden Dillon square in the jaw.

Maybe Marcus will opt for a sweeping leg kick, or something else this afternoon. Just a creative takedown for a towering Jets skater.

Tune into the madness.