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Preview: Wild continue important homestand against Jets

It’s been a while since these two clashed.

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Minnesota Wild v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

When the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets meet, we expect some fireworks. Just because of the border-crossing rivalry that feels so apt and expected, doesn’t always mean that there will be some battle between brutes. It has to happen organically, and maybe, it has.

Wild vs. Jets

When: 6:00 p.m. CT
Where: Xcel Energy Center
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

After all, the Jets seem to just be a thorn in the Wild’s side no matter what. Even when they had a tumultuous season last year, the Jets managed to get the advantage over Minnesota and especially in the late-season push that the St. Paul residents had to secure a spot in the playoffs. The last time these two teams met, it was two games in Winnipeg separated by just eight days in the middle of February. Despite the Jets being below .500 and the Wild with double the number of wins compared to losses, the home team demolished Minnesota in both matchups.

The first being a 2-0 victory for the Jets; a game where the Wild could not stay out of the box to save their lives and dragged their feet to not even getting one puck behind Connor Hellebuyck. The second, just eight days later and a 6-3 win for the Jets featuring a hat trick from Mark Scheifele. Not a great feeling after those two games is what we have to go off on, currently.

And those games happened when the Wild were playing some of the best hockey they have, like, ever. Right now, they’re searching for answers to several questions and the entire roster feels lost with no cemented lineup or pairings outside of the partnership between Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello. Tossing up ideas and experimenting is how you find that chemistry, but it does feel like it’s taking longer than usual and the Wild just keep on playing hockey games through the muck.

Projected Wild lineup

Kirill Kaprizov — Sam Steel — Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway — Frederick Gaudreau — Matt Boldy
Brandon Duhaime — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno
Mason Shaw — Connor Dewar — Nic Petan

Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill — Alex Goligoski

Filip Gustavsson should be getting the start against Winnipeg as we await good news about Marc-Andre Fleury’s injury and don’t have to use Zane McIntyre to actually be on the ice.

Steel gets another opportunity on the top line after having a two-point performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins last week. Greenway makes his third return from injury this season and hopefully it’s for real this time and he’s still not trying to play through any hurt. And just one more substantial change in the forward group is Nic Petan coming in for Marco Rossi, who is now healthy scratched for the second consecutive game.

After doing his little shuffling, head coach Dean Evason has gone back to some more familiar pairings within the forward lines. We get to see the two top guys remain in tact, but the Boldy-Gaudreau, Eriksson Ek-Foligno, and Shaw-Dewar pairings are well established and hopefully that can lead to scoring more goals than the Jets.

On the blue line, we’re seeing Calen Addison get some rest (and watch the game) to have the hero from the Penguins game, Goligoski, play regular minutes next to Jon Merrill.

Projected Jets lineup

Kyle Connor — Mark Scheifele — Sam Gagner
Cole Perfetti — Pierre-Luc Dubois — Blake Wheeler
Axel Jonsson-Fjallby — Adam Lowry — Saku Maenalanen
Jansen Harkins — David Gustafsson — Michael Eyssimont

Josh Morrisey — Neal Pionk
Brenden Dillon — Nate Schmidt
Dylan Samberg — Ville Heinola

The Jets are suffering through some of their own injuries at this time. Forwards Nikolaj Ehlers and Mason Appleton are currently out, as well as defensemen Logan Stanley and Dylan DeMelo. It’s not the top of the roster, but certainly very important players for a team that hope to return to the postseason.

As for where the offense can come from within this Jets lineup, it is certainly concentrated in the top-six. Wingers like the sniper Kyle Connor are supported by foundational pieces like Mark Scheifele, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and the youngster Cole Perfetti. But beyond that, it’s a lot of focus on two-way and maybe this is where the Wild can target this group, keeping them hemmed in their own zone. Because as much as prospects like Ville Heinola have the potential to be top-four contributors, they might not be able to handle a well-executed cycle by the Wild’s complete and deep group of forwards.

Puck drop is at 6:00 p.m.

Burning Questions

Will Nic Petan be an improvement on Marco Rossi?

It is a difficult question to answer unless Petan scores a goal or even gets a point, purely because at the age of 27, Petan is that much more experienced and can handle the depth minutes without really any pressure on him to be anything more than an option.

Petan looked good at times during the stretch of preseason games, so during his regular season Wild debut, it will be interesting to just keep an eye on the dude.

Can we see a goal on the power play?

The Wild have now gone 0-for-14 in their last five games on the man advantage. For a team that could essentially only score goals when they were on special teams at the beginning of the season, that magic has dried up. Goligoski will be replacing Addison on the top unit and Boldy should be back there after having a little stint with the secondary group. We’ll see if that works, and if this streak can be broken.