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Preview: Red-hot Sabres come to Hockey Day Minnesota

The Sabres might be hot right now, but Boldy’s goal scoring is hotter.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild, hopefully in good spirits from winning some good ol’ fashioned hockey against the Flyers, will play the Buffalo Sabres at home tonight in the middle of Hockey Day Minnesota.

Wild vs Sabres

When: 8:00 p.m. CT
Where: Xcel Energy Center
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

The game against the Flyers was their twelfth win in fifteen home games, but make no mistake it broke a pretty concerning losing spiral that had the Wild outside the playoff bubble for the first time in a pretty long while. The Wild will need to win again against the Sabres to keep the ship righted and prove that they didn’t win simply because anyone can beat up on the Flyers right now.

Let’s talk about who is playing.

Projected Wild lineup:

Kirill Kaprizov — Sam Steel — Mats Zuccarello
Matthew Boldy — Frederick Gaudreau — Marcus Foligno
Ryan Hartman — Joel Eriksson Ek — Jordan Greenway
Brandon Duhaime — Connor Dewar — Ryan Reaves, Mason Shaw

Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill — Calen Addison

In net: Marc Andre Fleury

Hartman is back in the lineup again after being scratched for his recent trend of too many unnecessary penalties. However, Dean’s made some adjustments. He has Hartman playing in place of Foligno on the Eriksson Ek line, and Foligno with Boldy and Gaudreau. I don’t hate it, Hartman plays tough and perhaps if he’s placed in the shut down role with the formerly termed GREEF line, he’ll be inspired to play responsibly.

Boldy has finally been contributing in a big way again. He was on hat trick watch in Philadelphia and had points the previous game as well. I’d love to see him keep that up, and not only because he’s on my Fantasy roster. I don’t think playing with Foligno instead of Hartman will particularly move the needle one way or another for him.

Now what are the Sabres looking like?

Projected Sabres lineup

Jeff Skinner — Tage Thompson — Alex Tuch
JJ Peterka — Dylan Cozens — Jack Quinn
Casey Mittelstadt — Tyson Jost — Victor Olofsson
Zemgus Girgensons — Peyton Krebs — Kyle Okposo

Mattias Samuelsson — Rasmus Dahlin
Owen Power — Henri Jokiharju
Jacob Bryson — Ilya Lyubushkin

Craig Anderson is projected to start tonight in St. Paul, but they also have two other goaltenders technically on their roster in Eric Comrie and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Those two split the previous two starts, so maybe it’s Craig’s turn.

The Wild have a historically good record against the Sabres, 14-9-0, but in the most recent outings with the most modern version of these teams the Wild have not fared so well, they didn’t win either of their matchups in the 2021-2022 season, nor in this season’s January game. And the Sabres team is a better team now than they were last year. They’re looking at a potential playoff spot for the first time in 11 years. The Sabres have won five games in a row. They’re now 10-1-1 against the Western Conference on the road.

The Sabres have some solid offensive talent, Tage Thompson has been lights out this season, and has played well with familiar face Alex Tuch on his line. It also seems as though the Tyson Jost waiver claim has served them well. He was solid against the Jets Thursday with five shots on net, and several high-danger scoring chances. I’d count on him playing with intent to score on his former team.

Burning Questions

How does the Wild fare 5-on-5?

The Wild ranked third in the NHL last season on 5-on-5 – like there was a time when going on the power play actively worried me for this team – but they are 27th this season in the league in five-on-five goals. Listen, I just want to see this team scoring goals and striking fear into the hearts of their enemies. All goals are good goals, we want them to see the Wild score points, and seeing Kirill Kaprizov score dangerous power play goals is a thrill (let ALONE Connor Dewar’s penchant for shorties), but the team needs more production at even strength.

Does Ryan Hartman stay out of the box?

Welcome back, buddy! Hartman returns from being healthy scratched in Thursday’s game. (Honestly, it’s too bad that that was the game he missed, he could have let out some pent up frustration in one of the multiple scraps.) Hartman scored 34 goals last year. Let’s get that guy back, he can’t do that if he’s sitting in the penalty box the whole time.