We have another preseason game to close our weekend with. The Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks are facing off against one another but with no one having the home ice advantage. As a special treat to midwesteners, these two teams are playing this exhibition game at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.
It might not have the glitz and glam of an NHL regular season game, but there will still be plenty of firepower to make this local crowd appreciative of getting that extra attention and getting some stars to come out and show off.
For the Wild, they are simply cruising through their preseason. Having a 3-0-0 record and outscoring their opposition 13-6, they are certainly enjoying their warm-up session before the games really matter. And the best part of it all: Minnesota has not really played their stars a whole lot. Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, Ryan Hartman, Jonas Brodin, Matt Dumba, Joel Eriksson Ek...you probably get the point by now — have all appeared in just one of the three preseason games. They’re earning these wins off the back of hot prospects like Marco Rossi and newfound offensive weapons like Tyson Jost.
There have been a couple steady lines, and some that you can predict going into the season, but for some combinations, it has just been thrown together at whim by head coach Dean Evason, and it’s kind of worked. We’re getting a little bit of that tonight.
Frederick Gaudreau — Ryan Hartman — Matt Boldy
Connor Dewar — Marco Rossi — Brandon Duhaime
Nic Petan — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno
Joseph Cramarossa — Steven Fogarty — Sammy Walker
Carson Lambos — Alex Goligoski
Dakota Mermis — Simon Johansson
Daemon Hunt — Joe Hicketts
Up front, there are some combinations that you know are tried and true. On the first three lines, there is at least a duo of forwards that have enough experience together to link them heading into the season. Matt Boldy and Frederick Gaudreau; Connor Dewar and Brandon Duhaime; and Joel Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno — they all have appeared on the same line last season and their added players to their duets could be seen as a try-out. Not so much for Hartman — as we all know what wingers will go up there with him — but Rossi could get some time with Dewar (maybe not Duhaime) and Nic Petan is getting his opportunity to be Jordan Greenway’s injury replacement for the first few weeks of the season.
On the blue line, there’s not a whole lot to get excited about. We get to see young players like Lambos, Hunt, and Johnasson get their shot, but all six of these defensemen will probably not be in the Wild’s lineup when everyone’s healthy.
And as an added bonus, facing his old hockey club, we get Marc-Andre Fleury in between the pipes. There’s your star power if you want it, Milwaukee.
As for Chicago, there has not been a lineup released and since they just had a game last night against the Detroit Red Wings, we probably won’t get any clarity before warm-ups. Some players like Max Domi, Patrick Kane, Andreas Anthanasiou, and Seth Jones, did not play against Detroit; so maybe they will appear tonight.
See you at 6:30 p.m.
Will Petan look out of place?
Nic Petan, as mentioned above, is getting his fair share of opportunities during this preseason. The AHL-NHL tweener has never really had a stable position anywhere — and we’re not saying that he has a regular role here, either — but if he can do enough to not look like a detriment to Eriksson Ek and Foligno’s elite two-way play, then maybe he can at least start his season in the NHL and we’ll work from there.
Can we see more of Carson Lambos?
The young defensemen has had a hell of a few months, in a bad way. After being such a disappointment at the World Juniors for Team Canada that he was a healthy scratch for the rest of the tournament after the very first game, we just want to see some sort of solid performance from the kid before he heads back to the WHL. Just a little glimmer of promise, to boost his morale, and to have us excited at the prospect of him being closer to home and turning professional next season.
Can the special teams streak continue?
The Wild have spent a whole lot of time on the special teams. On the power play, they have made a team pay at least once through their first three exhibition games — scoring five goals in total on the man advantage. And on the penalty kill, they have allowed just one single goal through approximately 23 minutes shorthanded. That’s some sort of dual threat.
Can they continue that streak against Chicago tonight and have that ratio going in their own favor? Surely, it must come to a shrieking halt at some point, but considering Chicago’s defense and lack of offense, maybe they can just stroll through once again.