Minnesota Wild (25-21-3) 53pts 3rd in the Central
2.78 Goals For Per Game (26th in the NHL)
2.84 Goals Against Per Game (9th in the NHL)
20.4% Power Play (14th in the NHL)
84.7% Penalty Kill (2nd in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #11 Zach Parise ~ 20G 23A = 43pts
2. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 12G 27A = 39pts
3. #12 Eric Staal ~ 15G 18A = 33pts
4. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 5G 26A = 31pts
5. #46 Jared Spurgeon ~ 7G 21A = 28pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #36 Nick Seeler ~ 41 PIM’s
2. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 33 PIM’s
3. #29 Greg Pateryn ~ 29 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (19-16-3) 2.58GAA .913%SP 1SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (6-5-0) 2.92GAA .894%SP
Colorado Avalanche (22-19-8) 52pts 5th in the Central
3.41 Goals For Per Game (7th in the NHL)
3.02 Goals Against Per Game (18th in the NHL)
24.9% Power Play (6th in the NHL)
77% Penalty Kill (26th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #96 Mikko Rantanen ~ 23G 50A = 73pts
2. #29 Nathan MacKinnon ~ 27G 43A = 70pts
3. #92 Gabriel Landeskog ~ 29G 25A = 54pts
4. #4 Tyson Barrie ~ 5G 33A = 38pts
5. #34 Carl Soderberg ~ 16G 14A = 30pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #28 Ian Cole ~ 68 PIM’s
2. #16 Nikita Zadorov ~ 46 PIM’s
3. #11 Matt Calvert ~ 38 PIM’s
1. #1 Semyon Varlamov (13-12-5) 2.82GAA .908%SP 1SO
2. #31 Philipp Grubauer (9-5-3) 3.29GAA .895%SP
Confidence seems to be building among the Wild as two solid performances against the Columbus Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights has Minnesota sitting in 3rd in the Central Division. The Wild make their way to the Mile High City to take on the Avalanche who is just one point behind them but two places back in the division. What could go wrong?
A lot, actually. The Wild have struggled mightily in road trips to Colorado this season losing four out of their last five by a combined score of 19-4. Colorado has struggled as of late, going 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. The Avalanche are coming off a 4-1 home loss to Nashville on Monday. The Avalanche trail the Wild by just one point in the standings and a chance to leap frog Minnesota will no doubt make for a fairly motivated opponent tonight. For the Wild, its an excellent opportunity to put some space between themselves and Colorado going into the All Star Break.
Colorado has one of the most powerful top lines in the NHL with Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon both topping 70 points this season. Agitating captain Gabriel Landeskog rounds out the top line and has only chipped in 29 goals this season. After that, it drops off quite a bit in terms of production but all of their lines feature some measure of speed and skill which makes them more than a handful for an older, slower club like the Wild.
On the blueline, offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie and Sam Girard has blossomed into the puck moving power play quarterback they always coveted. Ian Cole and Nikita Zadorov bring the physical element to their blueline. The physical play this group engages in is often kind of dirty which should be no surprise to Wild fans who have watched this rivalry develop over the years. Semyon Varlamov gave up 3 goals on 26 shots in the Avalanche’s loss on Monday and at times seemed to lack focus. I could see the Avalanche giving Philipp Grubauer the start, while Minnesota will no doubt put Devan Dubnyk between the pipes.
Minnesota, a team who is starting to see the wheeling and dealing side of General Manager Paul Fenton, saw another trade on Tuesday when he dealt a conditional 5th round pick in 2019 to the Vegas Golden Knights for defensman Brad Hunt as well as 6th round pick in 2019. The 30-year old, left-shot defenseman doesn’t bring a lot of size at 5’9″, 187lbs but he’s mobile and has good offensive instincts. The Wild have been wanting to generate more offense from its blueline, especially on the power play since the injury to Matthew Dumba. It was hoped Louie Belpedio could give the club that right shot defenseman with some offensive instincts but after this short two-game audition they decided to return him to Iowa instead. Fenton is familiar with Hunt from his time and his ability to play comfortably on the right side with Milwaukee a few years back and know that he has a lot of skill, and I’d guess he’d slot in on a pairing with Jonas Brodin.
Up front, the Wild got a great effort from its 4th line of Marcus Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin that helped get Minnesota going after a somewhat slow start against Vegas on Monday. The line has been the right combination of pesky and fast as the group forechecks well. The other player who has really emerged as a force of nature is Jordan Greenway, the 6’6″ 225lbs+ winger who uses his frame to protect the puck and is playing more like a veteran than a rookie. I think his emergence has helped rekindle Eric Staal and Charlie Coyle‘s game. Zach Parise‘s non-stop hustle is infectious and it will be interesting to see if Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau keeps him on a line with Victor Rask and Pontus Aberg who both looked a little lost against Vegas.
Eric Fehr is speculated to possibly be back after being hurt by dangerous hit by Montreal’s Matt Agostino a few weeks ago. It will be interesting to see if the Wild opt to put him back in considering how well Eriksson Ek has played in that penalty killing role in his absence. J.T. Brown, Matt Hendricks, and Nate Prosser will likely find themselves watching the game from the pressbox.
What are the keys to a Minnesota Wild victory?
1. Stay out of the box – Being disciplined against a dirty team is especially important against Colorado who has the skill to make you pay on the man advantage. While the Wild have a good penalty kill, if there is any fatigue left over from their Monday game against Vegas it would be best to avoid being a man short with tired legs.
2. Keep crashing the net – Part of the success the Wild have had in its last few games have been the fact they’ve been willing to work their way in close and battle for the ‘dirty’ types of goals. Colorado often tries to keep Minnesota to the perimeter, but the Wild can put far more pressure on the Avalanche by working their way in close.
3. Finish Strong – One trend of the Minnesota Wild this season has been their tendency to ease up after a great effort, especially against a lesser opponent. While Colorado isn’t terrible, they’re not quite near the top of the standings as Columbus and Vegas were. The Wild have a huge opportunity to go into the break with a few points separating them from Colorado and take another step closer to the post-season. Minnesota will need to dig deep as they know they have more or less 5 days rest coming up, no reason not to give their maximum effort.
What do you think are keys to a Wild victory? Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!