After an up-and-down road trip, the Minnesota Wild returned home this week and have proved that they are not pretenders. With two strong showings against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Wild came away with two wins and are now 7-2-1 in their last ten games, firmly placing themselves in the upper echelon of the West Division.
Tonight, they face the Arizona Coyotes for the start of a three-game homestand. The Coyotes just took three out of a possible four points against the Colorado Avalanche. Some credit should go to Clayton Keller for assisting on three of the Coyotes’ four goals in those games; goaltender Antii Raanta did the yeoman’s work. In the 2-1 OT loss, Raanta stopped 44/46 shots and stopped 16/16 to win the previous game, after coming in for an injured Darcy Kuemper. There’s nothing scarier than a hot goalie, and the Coyotes have one in between the pipes right now.
The good news is that their offense has been putrid in March — scoring 2.6 goals per game — ranking 26th in the NHL over that span. If the Wild can manage to get three past Raanta, which they have on average this month, they should come away with the win.
Cam Talbot looks to be the man in net tonight, but he and Kaapo Kähkönen will most likely split the homestand.
Looks like Cam Talbot opens the #mnwild’s 3-game homestand in net vs. the #coyotes— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) March 12, 2021
Talbot has struggled this month, losing all three of his starts with a paltry .865 Sv% and allowing 13 goals. With Kähkönen flourishing in his rookie season and nipping at his heels for more playing time, he’ll have to get things back on track. And a sputtering Coyotes’ offense is just the medicine to fix his ails.
The Wild will be getting some bodies back, as Ryan Hartman looks poised to return as the 3C. The dynamic Foligno-Eriksson Ek-Greenway looks to be intact, as there were some questions about Marcus Foligno’s availability. That line has been on absolute fire of late, combining 8G/17 Pts over the last six games while also crushing opponents with a 73 xGF% at evens as per Evolving Hockey. They’ve unexpectedly cemented themselves as the Wilds's top-option this year.
Puck drops at 7 p.m. It should be a fun one.
Can Cam Talbot rebound?
Talbot has had a rough go of late, being in net — while not necessarily responsible — for all three Wild losses in the last ten games. He hasn’t got much run support in two of those losses, as the Wild scored one and two goals, respectively, but he’ll have to do better than letting in five to give the team a fighter’s chance. The Coyotes don’t tout an explosive offense, so if it’s a quiet night in net, let’s see if Cam can return to form. If not, the young netminder behind him will gladly look to show him up.
Some rust to shake off for Ryan Hartman?
Hartman’s recent conversion to center has been a successful experiment, but it was sidelined by an injury that kept him out the last five games. With nine points in 19 games this season, Hartman’s return will be a welcome one, but will he have the ability to be effective right away?
Will the powerplay still look this good?
We all know the Minnesota Wild powerplay's woes, but in the last game against the Knights, it looked dynamic (if not downright dominant). While Kirill Kaprizov was responsible for the lone tally, can they keep it rolling into another successful attempt tonight?