After looking like the Minnesota Wild could make a run for the top of the Central Division, they now sit in third place with one point after dropping their last two games to the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers. Tonight they face the ever-mighty Tampa Bay Lightning – who they beat in a decisive 5-1 contest earlier this month – in an attempt to cement their precarious footing and resume their climb to the top of the Central.
The Lightning went on a five-game streak after losing to the Wild on Jan. 4 but have lost their last two games. The Alberta duo of the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers, allowing 11 goals in those two games. They will look to rebound at home against the Wild tonight before facing the league-leading Boston Bruins on Thursday (January 26). The Lightning sit third in a very tough Atlantic Division but have an eight-point buffer in fourth place.
Wild projected lineup
Kirill Kaprizov – Sam Steele – Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway – Joel Erickson Ek – Marcus Foligno
Matt Boldy – Frédéric Gaudreau – Ryan Hartman
Brandon Duhaime – Connor Dewar – Ryan Reeves
Jack Middleton – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
John Merrill – Callen Addison
Marc-Andre Fleury – Philippe Gustavsson
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Lightning projected lineup
Brandon Hagel – Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Anthony Cirelli – Steven Stamkos – Alex Killorn
Ross Colton – Nick Paul – Patrick Maroon
Vladislav Namestikov – Pierre-Edouard Bellemaire – Corey Perry
Victor Hedman – Jack Bogosian
Mikhail Sergachev – Niklas Perbiks
Ian Cole – Eric Cernak
Andrei Vasilevsky – Brain Elliott
3 keys to the game
It’s time to put it all together
The Wild’s 25-16-4 record is good for a .600 point percentage. If they continue at this rate, they could finish the season with 99 points, well above the franchise-best 113 points from 2021-22. Even though they are a playoff team, the Wild are much more capable than they have shown thus far. At times throughout their 45 games, they’ve delivered strong games but haven’t been able to pull it all together at once.
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they have Filip Gustavsson’s Top Five NHL GoaltendersThey rank second in goals against and have a roster loaded with effective players and consistent point producers Kirill Kaprizov. They just struggled to find their confidence as a team. No one expects them to overtake the Bruins for the Presidents Trophy, but they have what it takes to be a contender.
The penalty issue needs to be stopped
Minnesota keeps losing games because they can’t Stay out of the penalty box, a problem that has been a problem all season. The Wild average 12.40 penalty minutes per game, the most of any team currently in a playoff spot, and that’s inexcusable. They play a heavy, tough game that naturally lends itself to penalties, but they have a nasty habit of deflating the minors at key moments in a game, and that will hurt them in the postseason if not corrected.
Time for a trade
Trade for Wild Reaves Having struggled to find their identity at the start of the season in late November, and his presence brought a much-needed boost in morale, it did nothing to address the need for a top-six forward. Caprizov, Zuccarello, Boldi and Joel Erickson is one.
Steel has been a great fill-in at the number one center position, but he’s only a fill-in. The Wild could really use another player to help run the offense instead of just going along for the ride, whether that comes in the form of a center or winger. It has to happen if they want to do any damage in the playoffs.
Tonight’s matchup can be found on Bally Sports North and KFan 100.3FM starting at 6:00 CT.
From the east coast of Canada, I grew up immersed in hockey before I was old enough to walk. The Minnesota Wild joined the league because I was trying to find a favorite team and have been committed to them ever since. I want to take a break from my day job of writing reports as a scientist by writing articles about my hockey passion. Follow me on Twitter @tysmck15 for my latest.