While the rosters are completely different, this can be a quasi revenge game for the Minnesota Wild. Back in the bubble season, they had to face the Vancouver Canucks in the playoff qualification round that we have already stripped completely from our minds. Unfortunately, they had to succumb to the streaky and unpredictable team from northwest, but now, the power rests in the Wild’s hands.
Ever since bringing in our former bench boss Bruce Boudreau, the Canucks have been on a tear and one of the best teams in the league — surprisingly. But the hole that they dug themselves in was too deep to suddenly be a competitive playoff team and they find themselves just outside of the bubble, every single day wishing for results to go their way and to not get sucked up by the elimination black hole. As of Thursday morning, they have an 8.1 percent chance of reaching the post-season, but it would drop significantly with a loss in Minnesota.
So, let’s just hope that the Wild can squish them like a bug and kill all their hopes and dreams of extending their season.
It might prove to be a little bit more difficult than normal, unfortunately. Minnesota will most likely be without Matt Dumba, Jordan Greenway, Jon Merrill, and Tyson Jost for Thursday’s matchup and possibly Marcus Foligno, as all five regular skaters are missing time due to injury. There will be a certain lack of physicality — that was present against the Montreal Canadiens earlier this week — but hopefully the slight Canucks can sit down and lose.
There isn’t really much to play for in this one, and it is just yet another hurdle to try and earn enough points in the standings to fend off the St. Louis Blues and earn home ice advantage over the likely first-round opponent. They currently sit dead-even in points with 103, but have one game in hand over the Blues. That and individual player milestones is really all that is at play in the last six games, really.
Hopefully, we get some fresh forward lines with the absences. In Montreal, Nicolas Deslauriers was playing on Joel Eriksson Ek’s wing and while it was nice to be in his home province for his 500th game and get pushed up the lineup, there are certain players that are more deserving of that spot and my own personal bias would like to see Connor Dewar get some more ice, even if it means jumbling around the center spot and demoting Nick Bjugstad down to play in the middle. It won’t happen — Dewar will probably be centering the fourth line — but we can dream and fantasy book.
Kirill Kaprizov—Ryan Hartman—Mats Zuccarello
Kevin Fiala—Frederick Gaudreau—Matt Boldy
Connor Dewar—Joel Eriksson Ek—Mitchell Chaffee
Brandon Duhaime—Nick Bjugstad—Nicolas Deslauriers
Jake Middleton—Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin—Dmitry Kulikov
Jordie Benn—Alex Goligoski
Marc-Andre Fleury will most likely get an appearance against the Canucks as the Wild continue their goaltender rotation.
Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.
Will Kevin Fiala ever stop?
Fiala has been on a mission to prove everyone wrong and either force the Wild’s hand to find a way to keep him on this team beyond just this season, or give the team enough of a return in a potential (and depressing) trade to adequately replace the lights-out winger. In his seven games, he has scored seven goals and 15 points, earning at least a point in each game as well. That is bonkers. Honestly, just bonkers.
The Canucks have a terrible-enough blue line for Kevin to smell blood.
Can the Wild’s penalty kill be enough?
Minnesota has not conceded a goal on the man advantage in their last two games — but those were against the San Jose Sharks and the Montreal Canadiens, two teams that don’t have a whole lot of offensive weapons to throw at the penalty killers. Now, with Vancouver, it might be a different story and a more difficult task to stave off a powerplay goal against. Whether it is Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Elias Pettersson, or Conor Garland; there will be enough firepower to put the Wild’s shorthanded unit to the test — on the Canucks’ first unit, anyway.