The Minnesota Wild have an opportunity tonight to make some early ground in the division. Maybe it is a little soon to be thinking about a race for the playoffs in a top-heavy Central Division, but considering that the Winnipeg Jets have surged to this great start of their season and the projected cracks defensively have not spread open at all, it might not be crazy to really want to take these two points that mean a little more.
After the holiday break, the Jets sit with a 19-11-2 record and just three points above the Wild, sitting in the second divisional spot. Things could get even tighter of Kirill Kaprizov and his boys are the victors tonight, and that’s exactly what we want and it is entirely achievable.
The last time these two teams met this season, the Wild earned a dominant 6-1 win with several players getting a pair of points and chipping in offensively while also keeping Winnipeg to under 30 shots on goal. A tidy win if we ever saw one and a win that let us all relax and realize that the first month or so of not-great hockey in St. Paul was more of a fluke and this team can still do The Thing.
This time around, the Wild might not be able to put six on them and keep them to a single goal, considering the significant absences, but it should still prove to be a tight and hard-nosed game.
Projected Wild lineup
Kirill Kaprizov — Sam Steel — Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway — Joel Eriksson Ek — Ryan Hartman
Sammy Walker — Frederick Gaudreau — Matt Boldy
Adam Beckman — Connor Dewar — Ryan Reaves
Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill — Calen Addison
Marc-Andre Fleury is probably getting the start after the holiday break.
Yeah, that earlier win in the season was led by Marcus Foligno scoring two of the six goals. Unfortunately, he is dealing with an injury issue and did not travel with the team to Winnipeg. And just to pile on the absences, Mason Shaw is serving a two-game suspension for the last game before the holiday break, and he scored the first goal of the earlier game as well.
It will therefore be a different lineup than the win in St. Paul, but it still has that typical firepower up top, the supplementary scoring in Matt Boldy and Joel Eriksson Ek, and then a whole lot of young guys trying to prove that they belong here. We don’t onow exactly where Sammy Walker and Adam Beckman will fit in, but we know that they will be shooting and skating like maniacs.
Projected Jets lineup
Morgan Barron — Mark Scheifele — Karson Kuhlman
Kyle Connor — Pierre Luc Dubois — Sam Gagner
Michael Eyssimont — Adam Lowry — Jansen Harkins
David Gustafsson — Kevin Stenlund — Axel Jonsson-Fjallby
Josh Morrisey — Dylan Demelo
Brenden Dillon — Neal Pionk
Ville Heinola — Kyle Capobianco
Connor Hellebuyck, like Fleury, will be well rested and ready to start in the Jets’ first game back in action after the holidays.
The Jets are doing this without a lot of pure talent. No Nikolaj Ehlers, no Blake Wheeler right now, and dudes like waiver pickup Karson Kuhlman on the top line. It is a little bonkers that they are having the season they are having. So let’s hope that tonight is the start of their downfall!
Josh Morrisey is becoming a dark horse for the Norris trophy, and mainly because there is not a whole lot of offensive playdrivers on this team and especially on the blue line.
Maybe the Wild can take advantage of these holes, but also Winnipeg is still providing enough depth.
Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.
How will the rookie reinforcements look?
Sammy Walker and Adam Beckman are getting an early second chance up with the Wild this season and the former impressed much more than the latter, but they can both still provide a dynamic spark to this team’s offense. We’re only guessing where they will end up playing — since the team is travelling this morning and we won’t get that precious lineup information — but they should get some solid opportunity to nudge themselves in the crevices of GM Bill Guerin’s mind when he’s building the roster for next season or making potential trades. Either way, we hope Walker does something insane with his speed tonight.
Will there be any holiday rust?
Sometimes you just can’t help it and a forced break like the Wild just had might end up killing the momentum they had heading into it. Before their last game against the San Jose Sharks, the Wild won six straight and were looking Good. So maybe just pick up from there, thanks.