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Preview: Fleury to make Wild debut against Blue Jackets

Minnesota’s big deadline acquisition will be in between the pipes.

Vancouver Canucks v Minnesota Wild Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

We all got to see Jacob Middleton make his Minnesota Wild debut against the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, and now it’s Marc-Andre Fleury’s turn.

The veteran goaltender will be making his first in-game appearance as a Wild player tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets. There have been piles and piles of singing of praises and anticipating as we await a future Hall-of-Famer (and possibly the first) to put on a Minnesota sweater and be in game action.

Having him play on Monday, the literal day that he was acquired, would be a bit unfair; and on Thursday, the team allowed him to go back to Chicago to pack up his house and family, and Cam Talbot got the start and earned the win against the Canucks. So, now we get Fleury debuting against Columbus and that’s fine with me.

The Blue Jackets have earned just three points in their last four games and have been outscored 11-20 along the way. Of course most of that uneven aggregate was due to a 7-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, but it still matters and we can walk into The X tonight being a little more comfortable with the potential of beating up on a poor opponent.

For the Wild, this is an opportunity to extend their winning streak to five games and even if they currently own the NHL’s longest one, every single point earned is crucial in the heated playoff battle they are in right now. Yes, Minnesota are still almost a lock to make the playoffs (unless they suddenly go on a historically terrible losing streak), but the St. Louis Blues are hot on their tail for the second spot in the Central and the Nashville Predators just don’t seem to want to go away. If they stay where they are, they’re facing one of those teams with the home-ice advantage; if they slip down into the Wild Card, it’s now facing the Colorado Avalanche or Calgary Flames. It is preferable to do that!

Every point matters from here on out, so let’s get stressed about a game against our expansion buddies.

Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.

Projected lineup:

Kirill Kaprizov—Ryan Hartman—Mats Zuccarello
Kevin Fiala—Frederick Gaudreau—Matt Boldy
Jordan Greenway—Joel Eriksson Ek—Marcus Foligno
Brandon Duhaime—Tyson Jost—Nicolas Deslauriers

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

Marc-Andre Fleury will be starting in net for the Wild (still weird to say).

Burning Questions

Please...can we get a good special teams performance?

It is no secret that both the Wild’s power play and penalty kill have been on a streak of poor performance for the last little bit. And even if Minnesota had an overall good time shorthanded against a Vancouver Canucks power play with some real weapons on it, it has still been overall bad.

Can we see the double-whammy of a power play goal or two and not letting Columbus net any themselves?

Will we see some offense from the second line?

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but Matt Boldy has not earned a point in the Wild’s last four games; and Kevin Fiala, has just three points in the last five. Compare this to the recent red-hot scoring streak those two were on combined with Frederick Gaudreau and it just causes some pause. They are certainly not done by any means, but it is just interesting to see how powerful Boldy was in the first 20 or so games in his career, and now the bounces just aren’t coming and the rookie isn’t really getting the opportunities either.

In those four games, Boldy has averaged just 13:39 TOI, compare that number to the 16:28 TOI he has averaged before this handful of games and it just makes you tilt your head a bit and question head coach Dean Evason’s decision making. Maybe it’s just running into certain opponents, or wanting to be more physical to come out of the losing slump — playing the Eriksson Ek line or the fourth line more. Whatever it is, hopefully we see it change soon because Boldy is too good to not break at least 15 minutes a night.