Minnesota Wild (7-7-2) 16pts 7th in the Central
2.88 Goals For Per Game (17th in the NHL)
2.69 Goals Against Per Game (8th in the NHL)
15.7% Power Play (21st in the NHL)
84.5% Penalty Kill (7th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 9G 5A = 14pts
2. #12 Eric Staal ~ 5G 7A = 12pts
3. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 2G 8A = 10pts
4. #46 Jared Spurgeon ~ 2G 8A = 10pts
5. #10 Chris Stewart ~ 6G 2A = 8pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 16 PIM’s
2. #19 Luke Kunin ~ 11 PIM’s
3. #22 Nino Niederreiter ~ 10 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (6-6-0-1) 2.55GAA .920%SP 2SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (1-1-0-1) 2.40GAA .925%SP
Philadelphia Flyers (8-7-2) 18pts 7th in the Metropolitan
2.94 Goals For Per Game (15th in the NHL)
2.59 Goals Against Per Game (4th in the NHL)
18.6% Power Play (15th in the NHL)
79.7% Penalty Kill (19th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #93 Jakub Voracek ~ 4G 17A = 21pts
2. #28 Claude Giroux ~ 9G 11A = 20pts
3. #14 Sean Couturier ~ 10G 9A = 19pts
4. #53 Shayne Gostisbehere ~ 1G 14A = 15pts
5. #17 Wayne Simmonds ~ 6G 5A = 11pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #3 Radko Gudas ~ 42 PIM’s
2. #93 Jakub Voracek ~ 18 PIM’s
3. #17 Wayne Simmonds ~ 15 PIM’s
1. #37 Brian Elliott (6-4-0-1) 2.73GAA .908%SP
2. #30 Michal Neuvirth (2-3-0-1) 2.17GAA .928%SP 1SO
A few years back the NHL tried to inject a little more emotion into the games by emphasizing rivalries and this often meant frequent match ups between conference foes. The hope was to create the type of animosity you normally see in the playoffs. On some levels that has been successful as rivalries have developed a bit between the Minnesota Wild and its closest NHL neighbors the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks.
Perhaps more of a fluke in the scheduling than any overt attempt by the NHL to develop a rivalry between the Minnesota Wild and the Philadelphia Flyers, the two clubs find themselves in a rare home-at-home 2-game series. I don’t think the word rivalry is appropriate, but certainly what happened in the previous game (in regards to emotions, etc) will likely carry over to tonight’s game. The Wild frustrated the Flyers in a 1-0 win at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night and no doubt Philadelphia will want to turn the tables on Minnesota this evening.
Devan Dubnyk was outstanding, stopping all 32 shots he faced to earn his 2nd shutout in a row. Dubnyk has gone over a 130 minutes without surrendering a goal and you can bet Fox Sports Net’s Anthony LaPanta and Mike Greenlay (or Wes Walz) will be mentioning that factoid ad nauseum throughout tonight’s game. However the plain truth is, in his last two starts Dubnyk is finding his groove again with a game based on great puck tracking ability and limiting his rebounds. That was on full display on Saturday and I have little doubt Philadelphia’s offensive focus will be to get even more traffic in and around his crease.
The other big story from Saturday was the play of Jason Zucker who has accounted for the Wild’s last 6 goals (scored over the last 3 games) which earned him NHL 1st star of the week honors. Zucker has been outstanding using his speed and quick hands near the net. If Zucker can manage to score another goal he will tie Cy Denneny (a member of the original Ottawa Senators from back in 1921) and Brian Noonan (Chicago Blackhawks in 1991) with an NHL record 7 consecutive goals. Strangely enough all of Zucker’s 6 goals have come in the 3rd period.
While there have been plenty of jokes made on Twitter by his wife Carly about whether to let him sleep at home since all of his goals have come one the road, the team needs other players to step up and light the lamp as well. Eric Staal has also been pretty good through this latest stretch as has Nino Niederreiter who has shown pretty good chemistry working on a line with Zucker.
Mikael Granlund has had some nice set ups, but goals have remained elusive and he seems to be still somewhat bothered by the groin injury he suffered. Mikko Koivu has been terrific in a shutdown capacity, but he too could chip in a bit more offensively. Tyler Ennis is getting some good chances since he’s moved up to the top line with Koivu and Granlund, so hopefully he starts to bury a few. Another player who I felt had a good effort on Saturday was Joel Eriksson Ek. Eriksson Ek has struggled to be productive playing in a bottom 6 role, but he showed some offensive flair and a goal or even a nice assist would do wonders for his confidence.
On a different note, someone should call Land-O-Lakes Dairy and see if they can put a ‘missing’ notice for Chris Stewart on one of their milk cartons. Stewart hasn’t scored a point in his last 10 games and has been mostly a non-factor. I know his hot start was an aberration but the team needs for him, along with Marcus Foligno to be creating scoring chances.
Defensively the Wild have been ok; but they can expect the Flyers to be crashing the crease with a vengeance tonight. Wayne Simmonds, Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier will all be going to the net early and often. The Wild’s blueline will have to be moving its feet and being tough around the blue paint. Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux were held in pretty good check by the Wild all game long, and Minnesota would be well-served to continue to focus on them as so much of the Flyers offense goes through them.
The Flyers blueline is not the big bruising bunch as it used to be, but its also more mobile. Yet they can be guilty of gaffes with the puck, especially youngster Richard Hagg. Minnesota would be wise to pressure him whenever he has the puck.
Between the pipes I’d guess both clubs are going to start the same goaltenders they did on Saturday. Dubnyk riding his shutout streak and Brian Elliott only gave up one; and unless Flyers bench boss Dave Hakstol just wants to change it up I’d guess he’d return to their workhorse. So what does the Wild have to do in order to get a victory tonight?
- Weather the storm – The Flyers are going to want to get the jump on the Wild right away, and they will do so by sending bodies and traffic near the Minnesota crease right away. Minnesota must be poised and do what they can to keep the Flyers to the perimeter and let that early energy dissipate.
- Mind the changes – On Saturday, the Flyers really tried to get their 1st line out when the Wild had their 3rd or 4th lines on the ice. With a home game, it means Minnesota gets the last change so they should use that to their advantage and deny the Flyers those mismatches they were seeking.
- Keep it simple – Minnesota scored on Saturday on a simple rebound after a shot from the point. It doesn’t have to be fancy and too often the Wild try to be a little cute with the puck at home.
So what do you think will be important for tonight’s game? Let us know on Twitter @CreaseandAssist or @MNSOTA24 or in the comment selection below!