Minnesota Wild (6-4-3) 15pts 4th in the Central
2.31 Goals For (21st)
2.23 Goals Against (5th)
24.5% Power Play (4th)
75.9% Penalty Kill (27th)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #11 Zach Parise ~ 6G 3A = 9pts
2. #24 Matt Cooke ~ 3G 5A = 8pts
3. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 1G 9A = 10pts
4. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 0G 8A = 8pts
5. #29 Jason Pominville ~ 7G 0A = 7pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #28 Zenon Konopka ~ 32 PIM's
2. #39 Nate Prosser ~ 17 PIM's
3. #4 Clayton Stoner ~ 15 PIM's
1. #37 Josh Harding (5-2-1) 1.00GAA .953%SP 1SO
2. #32 Niklas Backstrom (1-1-2) 3.42GAA .871%SP
Montreal Canadiens (8-5-0) 16pts 3rd in the Atlantic
2.85 Goals For (14th)
1.77 Goals Against (2nd)
22.6% Power Play (7th)
84.3% Penalty Kill (7th)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #14 Tomas Plekanec ~ 6G 5A = 11pts
2. #76 P.K. Subban ~ 2G 9A = 11pts
3. #81 Lars Eller ~ 5G 4A = 9pts
4. #27 Alex Galchenyuk ~ 2G 7A = 9pts
5. #73 Brendan Gallagher ~ 5G 3A = 8pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #15 George Parros ~ 20 PIM's
2. #53 Ryan White ~ 18 PIM's
3. #76 P.K. Subban ~ 16 PIM's
1. #31 Carey Price (6-5-0) 2.02GAA .939%SP 1SO
2. #30 Peter Budaj (2-0-0) .50GAA .982%SP 1SO
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"A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap, a time to kill, a time to heal, a time to laugh, a time to weep" are the lyrics to the late 60's song Turn, Turn, Turn by the Byrds and of course the main theme is how if certain change is. Nothing stays permanent, a Buddhist philosophy of impermanence. As they say the only certainties in life are death and taxes, but often times there are certain constants we as sports fans grasp onto. When it comes to lineups, we have our ideas of who should be playing and who should not and what combinations of players seem to work and which need to be changed. Since the arrival of Zach Parise to the Wild's lineup, the one constant amongst all the shuffling of players was that Parise was going to be paired with team captain Mikko Koivu. Well that is about to change.
Koivu and Parise where the Abbott and Costello of the Wild. The playmaking captain spent his shifts trying to set up Wild's hardest working forward and they were supposed to carry the Wild offense. But it hasn't quite worked out as expected. Parise has delivered all he can, many times through sheer effort and force of will as he works himself into scoring areas and more often than not his persistance is rewarded. However the two players are not equal. Koivu is more comfortable in a slow it down, cycling style of game. Parise has great wheels and can make things happen off the rush. Wild fans like myself have grown increasingly frustrated with the unwillingness to break up this pairing. Now those fans will have their wish as Koivu drops down to the 2nd line to play with Kyle Brodziak and Nino Niederreiter, while Parise plays on a line that will be centered by Charlie Coyle who returns after missing the last 11 games with a sprained knee and either Justin Fontaine or Dany Heatley. Leading goal scorer Jason Pominville is on the 3rd line with Mikael Granlund and Matt Cooke. I have to admit, the new line combinations sound refreshing and intriguing. It balances out the Wild's scoring making the team a bit tougher to match up against and I like the mix of size, strength on the puck and finesse should give Minnesota some quality options against the Canadiens.
Both clubs should be fairly well rested for tonight's game, as the Habs last played on Tuesday against the Dallas Stars where they prevailed 2-1. The last time the Wild played Montreal, Minnesota was thoroughly embarassed at home as P.K. Subban registered his first NHL hat trick. WIth the lockout that deprived the Wild of playing any Eastern Conference foes, the teams should be rather unfamiliar with one another. Montreal is a quality team that is both stifling defensively as well as potentially explosive offensively. The Habs special teams are rock solid in both their power play and penalty kill meaning the Wild will want to avoid giving Montreal the man advantage. Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta, Daniel Briere and Brendan Gallagher may not be big players but they are effective finishers. Montreal also carries its fair share of bruisers in Travis Moen, Brandon Prust and Ryan White who always seems to want to scrap whenever they play us.
The Wild have other players returning to their lineup as Jonas Brodin will likely be back patrolling the blueline after suffering a broken cheekbone after taking a puck in the face a few weeks ago; but he'll be playing with a full iTech eye shield to try to protect it from anymore damage. Brodin told reporters that it has been very 'painful' at times but is going to do his best play through it. His return will be most welcome and while the team did ok in his absence the club will benefit from the stability he provides and I am sure Wild workhorse Ryan Suter will be happy to have his partner back. Mathew Dumba, who has not been sent back to his major junior team in Red Deer will likely be a healthy scratch after a rough game against Chicago on Monday night. Nate Prosser will likely be the Wild's 6th defenseman, and has been solid despite limited playing time this season.
This is a big next few games for Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo who is now making that major lineup adjustment many fans feel has been far too late in being implemented. While there is one elephant in the room, the lackluster play of Dany Heatley, the moves do give fans a chance to see what they've wanted to see for a very long time. To see how Parise and Koivu do on separate lines. How long they'll stay separated is another story. I know I'm hoping he keeps the two apart for at least a few complete games. Perhaps Yeo's decision to move the duo was in part due to the increasing pressure to succeed and win now. For the Wild and Yeo's case, hopefully change is a good thing for this team. Otherwise, more drastic changes may have to be made.