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Preview: Wild homestand continues against Panthers

The Wild need to ensure the February slump is behind them with a win tonight.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Florida Panthers Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild, hopefully in better spirits after a direly needed big win in a shootout against a good Devils team on Saturday, are playing the Florida Panthers tonight. The Panthers are an interesting mirror for the Wild as they’re a not terribly altered team from last year, but the changes that did occur in the offseason paint a picture with stark differences in terms of season success.

Wild vs Panthers

When: 7:00 p.m. CT
Where: Xcel Energy Center
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

The game against the Devils was the Wild’s first in the month of February. The Wild will need to win again against the Panthers tonight to keep the ship righted and prove to their general manager that they’re not exactly sellers as this trade deadline approaches.

Let’s talk about who is playing:

Projected Wild lineup:

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

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

Filip Gustavsson is going to start in net for the Wild.

Lots to touch on here: hard to deny the importance of Jonas Brodin to the Wild. He spent 25 minutes on the ice in Saturday’s game, and it would be hard to say his calming presence didn’t help elevate the game to the win, and his absence was felt in the losing games before. Hopefully he helps tonight as well.

Lines were big time scrambled Saturday and it seems that Dean has decided that the Devils game line combination formula worked, except that Sam Steel has played himself out of the lineup. From first line center, to second line to fourth line, to scratched is a tough trajectory. That however, means that Ryan Reaves is back in. It’ll be his 800th NHL game. I like Shaw-Dewar-Reaves, too. Glad to have them back.

Gustavsson was really good for them against New Jersey, so I’m glad he gets to play again. The goaltending has been one of the best parts of this time for a bit now.

Projected Panthers lineup

Matthew Tkachuk — Aleksander Barkov — Sam Reinhart
Anton Lundell — Sam Bennett — Carter Verhaeghe
Ryan Lomberg — Eetu Luostarinen — Nick Cousins
Chris Tierney — Eric Staal — Givani Smith

Gustav Forsling — Aaron Ekblad
Marc Staal — Brandon Montour
Josh Mahura — Radko Gudas

In net: Sergei Bobrovsky

Minnesota has lost the last four outings against Florida. Granted, they were very very good last year, and they’re a slightly different team this year. Bobrovsky also isn’t quite the goaltender he was last year either. The Panthers do still have some scary offensive talent, Tkachuk is always a danger and Barkov is solid too.

Burning Questions

How does the Wild fare five-on-five?

Matt Dumba scored a massive five-on-five goal in Saturday’s game. This teams even strength scoring has been abysmal as of late and has much to do with their recent losing track record. If Dumba really did break the seal, that could be good for this team in a major way.

Ryan Hartman, first line center

Hartman is one of the most significant players that exemplifies last seasons’ success and this years’ lack of scoring. Regression was inevitable, but you gotta think that he should fall somewhere in the middle. Hopefully slotting him back between Kaprizov and Zuccarello will shake something loose for him again. That will certainly help if he manages to stay out of the box (he was penalized for 17 minutes on Saturday for an instigating call that I think was a little iffy) and actually play with his linemates. Does he manage to get on the board in tonight’s game?