The Minnesota Wild return to the ice for their third game since taking two weeks to try and recover from a COVID-19 outbreak that rummaged its way through the team. After suffering a disappointing and shocking loss to the Los Angeles Kings, they played slow, brooding hockey against the Anaheim Ducks and still came out with a win.
Well they’re sticking around in Anaheim and play them once again, this time with more regulars returning to the lineup. So, hopefully, the product will be more entertaining and more satisfying.
Despite those returning players, head coach Dean Evason decided to stick with some combinations that we all have come to agree, makes this team so much better. Not only a better time watching, but some lines have been fairly productive in their own right.
#mnwild has three goalies on the ice for practice (Talbot, Kahkonen and Baribeau). Mermis isn't with the group.— Sarah McLellan (@sarah__mclellan) February 19, 2021
First Line Center Joel Eriksson Ek continues to dominate and control every aspect of the game while he’s on the ice, so now with a forechecker in 6-foot-6 Jordan Greenway and a player capable of creating goals out of nowhere like Kevin Fiala, should make it an interesting line moving forward.
On the blue line, Jonas Brodin is making his return off the NHL’s COVID protocol list on the second pairing with his usual partner Matt Dumba. Away from those two, the pairings continue to surprise. Young rookie Calen Addison is making his third consecutive appearance next to Ryan Suter in his third NHL game, but with Carson Soucy due back shortly off the protocol list and Jared Spurgeon seemingly out of place next to Ian Cole, he will really need to impress to keep his current role.
As for the netminders, Kaapo Kahkonen will get another start with regular Cam Talbot still working his way back from the protocol list, and John Gibson must be scheduled for another start against the offensively-desperate Wild team.
How will Hartman look down the middle?
Ryan Hartman was able to stand above the rest of the Wild players against the Ducks on Thursday and was awarded for his play with a spot in the top-nine, centering Zach Parise and Marcus Foligno. A line that will no doubt have some tenacity on the forecheck and some offensive pressure to add.
It will certainly be interesting to see how a winger, that has spent his year so far on the fourth line with other established players, handles more responsibility with more talent on his wings.
Will the Wild continue their awful power play?
Certainly the team-wide aspect that has the most question marks surround it, the Wild’s power play has been historically awful.
A lot of talk re: MIN and ANA's powerplays in 20-21. Looking at all teams' first 12 games in every season since 2007, MIN's 2.21 GF/60 so far is the 6th lowest in this span. ANA isn't too far behind, 8th lowest.— EvolvingWild (@EvolvingWild) February 19, 2021
Unfortunately, no team can match the historic '14-15 Sabres. pic.twitter.com/3uvVCOrZVG
Somehow still scoring goals at more than double the rate of the Buffalo Sabres teams that were tanking for Connor McDavid, the Wild would no doubt be a more successful team if they just had average man results while on the man advantage.
Whether or not they can break some of their misery against the Ducks tonight is still to be seen, but with some forwards coming back and the talent present, might as well bet on it.
Can Calen Addison play well enough to keep his spot?
The newcomer to the Wild’s blueline, Calen Addison has certainly made enough of an impression through two games to keep his spot beside Ryan Suter, but with more players coming back, it’s uncertain if that pairing has a longer shelf life than beyond this weekend.
Addison an all-out offensive defenseman that is certainly a sight for sore eyes when it comes to the defensemen we’re used to in Minnesota, but this being his first full(ish) regular season of professional hockey at the age of 20, some time in Iowa playing on the top pairing and all situations, could do some good.
Puck drop is at 8:00 p.m. CT at the Honda Center. Let’s go.