The Minnesota Wild are having a little bit of a bad time right now. Having now lost three straight games that were all incredibly annoying in their own distinct way, they are visiting the New York Islanders in search for their first two points since dominating the Tampa Bay Lightning however long ago that was.
Wild at Islanders
When: 6:30 p.m. CT
Where: UBS Arena
TV: BSN, BSWX, MSGSN
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM
If you put all the teams that have won against the Wild to form this three-game losing streak — the Buffalo Sabres, St. Louis Blues, and New York Rangers — and compare them to the Islanders, they are all better teams. So, theoretically, the Wild should have an easier time tonight, but this team is just so volatile with their results, we never really know.
In this losing streak there has been a lack of offense generation and really being able to get some high-end scoring chances. Against the Sabres, the Wild managed to get just eight high-danger shot attempts; in the game against the Blues, there was just nine. It wasn’t until the game against the Rangers that they were able to see double-digits, with 18 high-danger attempts, but the eventual victors got an entire 25, which is bananas.
Luckily, the Islanders tend to give up these high-danger chances more than most teams. They have averaged 12.53 high-danger shot attempts against per hour during 5-on-5 action, which is the 10th-highest in the NHL right now. Comparatively, the Wild allow the fewest in the entire NHL, averaging just 9.42. And if you want to talk about just raw shot attempts from anywhere on the ice, the Islanders allow the sixth-most per hour.
This is a team that has been bailed out by unreal goaltending from Ilya Sorokin, so eventually that has to break, right?
Either way, the Wild are finally back to full health and hopefully that means taking advantage of some poor defensive teams.
Projected Wild lineup
Kirill Kaprizov — Sam Steel — Mats Zuccarello
Matt Boldy — Frederick Gaudreau — Ryan Hartman
Jordan Greenway — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno
Brandon Duhaime — Connor Dewar — Ryan Reaves/Mason Shaw?
Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill — Calen Addison
Marc-Andre Fleury is projected to start tonight after bailing the team out against the Rangers a couple nights ago (they still lost).
The one big question after the disappointing loss in New York City is if head coach Dean Evason makes any changes. Noticeably, Mason Shaw was left out of the lineup on Tuesday and was the odd man out, but maybe he thinks that they could use the player’s energy instead of the hulking Reaves. Our guess is that the lineup will stay the same and Reaves will play, but you never know.
Projected Islanders lineup
Anders Lee — Mathew Barzal — Simon Holmstrom
Anthony Beauvillier — Brock Nelson — Josh Bailey
Zach Parise — Jean-Gabriel Pageau — Hudson Fasching
Matt Martin — Casey Cizikas — Cal Clutterbuck
Sebastian Aho — Noah Dobson
Parker Wotherspoon — Ryan Pulock
Alexander Romanov — Scott Mayfield
Ilya Sorokin is most likely starting and that’s bad news for the Wild. He just casually has the fifth-best goals against average in the league and the second-best save percentage. Casual.
The Islanders are just such a weird team. They’re always pestering about and within a couple points of making the playoffs, because they just keep guys around. Forwards like Lee, Beauvillier, Nelson, Pageau, and obviously Barzal, can break open a game with a substantial goal; so they have enough offense. Then, they supplement it with some youngish players on key scoring lines, and then they have the worst fourth line in all of hockey full of poor skaters and guys that just want to hit people. At least the Wild’s physical players can actually shoot the puck well.
It will no doubt be a physical battle and we might get some fights along the way, but the Wild should have the upper hand in actually scoring more goals than the other team.
Puck drop is at 6:30 p.m.
Can the Wild limit Mat Barzal?
Barzal is clearly the most talented player on this Islanders team, so even though they are on the road, Evason will certainly try to match Joel Eriksson Ek’s line up with him to suffocate any offense. So, can the Wild do that successfully and limit Barzal to zero points and maybe even a minimal amount of shots?
Will Sam Steel tie his career-high in points tonight?
The best NHL season Steel has had was scoring 22 points in 65 games during his sophomore season. He will certainly beat that total — unless catastrophe strikes — but can he maybe do it tonight? All he needs is two more points and he has been able to score five in his last five games.