It’s happening! Oh my god, it’s actually happening! The Winter Classic is finally here, after a year-long postponement and the more recent threat of Covid-19, which has been running through just about every team except the Minnesota Wild.
That’s not to say Minnesota has been completely unaffected. Tonight’s game will be the first since losing to the Dallas Stars on Dec. 20. In addition, the Wild announced that defenseman Jonas Brodin entered Covid-19 protocol on Dec. 28, but that might not necessarily mean that he will be out of the lineup tonight.
The following day, the NHL released a statement modifying the protocol, stating asymptomatic individuals or those with resolved symptoms can leave isolation after five days if they meet a list of conditions. Brodin, reported by The Atheltic’s Michael Russo as asymptomatic, could return. Head coach Dean Evason, however, is not relying on it.
Evason said on Brodin: “We’re waiting.” Depends on his test tomorrow. They’re conducting themselves like he’s not playing and Calen Addison is. If Brodin can play, “it’s a huge bonus.”— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) December 31, 2021
Twenty-one-year-old Calen Addison has played three games with Minnesota this season, earning a point with his first NHL goal in a game against the Ottawa Senators. In his time with Iowa, he’s scored nine points in 17 games. (Fun fact: The AHL lists Addison as 5-foot-9, while the NHL lists him as 5-foot-11)
The St. Louis Blues have not been as fortunate, with several players entering protocol in December. St. Louis, however, took full advantage of the long holiday break and will have nearly all their players for the Classic, except Robert Bortuzzo (Covid-19) and Brayden Schenn (upper-body).
With Joel Erikkson Ek (upper-body) and Jared Spurgeon (lower-body) out indefinitely for Minnesota, the teams could have an equal amount of absences, depending on Brodin.
St. Louis has played one game following the extended break, topping the Edmonton Oilers by a score of 4-1 on Wednesday. The two Central Division opponents most recently faced off on Oct. 6, in an overtime preseason affair settled by Adam Beckman.
Now for something typically not included in game previews, the forecast. According to Accuweather, tonight’s game will be “bitterly cold” and “outdoor activity can be dangerous.” With a balmy high of -3℉ and a low of 21℉, this is expected to be the coldest NHL game in history, as I’m sure you already know.
As for the lineups, with zero games played since Eriksson Ek’s injury, and no real sense of balance through the bottom-nine forwards, it’s not really clear where Evason will be going with this one. We can assume that the top line of Kaprizov, Hartman, and Zuccarello, will stay in-tact, but beyond that, there’s a big question mark. And it’s the same on the blue line with Brodin a game-time decision.
Cam Talbot will start in net and will likely face Jordan Binnington.
If you would like to take a bet on tonight’s affair, and are itching to take the Wild over the Blues, there’s no reason to not use Betway. The Wild are the favorites in this one, but just by a hair.
Will Brodin be in the lineup?
I’m no expert, so I took this one to trusty-dusty online magic eight ball, which said “Very Doubtful.” Take that as you will.
How will the past 11 days without games affect the Wild?
Although the extended break was out of the ordinary and it’s easy to fall into a debate over if the Wild will be “rusty,” I think the extraordinary circumstances could easily play to the Wild’s advantage. Earlier this week, NHL.com’s Jessi Pierce shared Evason’s thoughts on the Winter Classic.
“I think maybe there’s some coaches who say it’s just another game – it’s not just another game,” Evason said. “It’s different. But we still have to play the same. We still have to play how the Minnesota Wild play in that venue but use that excitement to generate energy; use that excitement to generate fun.” (full quote)
The Winter Classic is the perfect time to rise to the occasion. The battle started before they even step foot on the ice at Target Field tonight and the Wild are ready to put on a show.
Will the goalies wear beanies over their helmets?
If you know anything about me, you know I love goalies, so this might just be a personal burning question. However, for those interested, the forecast is looking promising for some toque-toting goalies. I’m not sure how warm they really keep netminder, but with tonight’s forecast, anything Talbot can do to keep warm will be of benefit.