Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Winnipeg Jets 2/8/22 @ 7:00PM CST at MTS Centre

Minnesota Wild (28-10-3)  59pts  3rd in the Central

3.83 Goals For Per Game (3rd in the NHL)
2.85 Goals Against Per Game (15th in the NHL)
19.4% Power Play (17th in the NHL)
80.3% Penalty Kill (14th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 19G 34A = 53pts
2. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 14G 28A = 42pts
3. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 13G 21A = 34pts
4. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 18G 15A = 33pts
5. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 17G 10A = 27pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 75 PIM’s
2. #21 Brandon Duhaime ~ 56 PIM’s
3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 46 PIM’s
Top Goaltenders:
1. #33 Cam Talbot (18-8-1)  2.81GAA  .913%SP  1SO
2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (10-2-2)  2.53GAA  .922%SP
Vs.
Winnipeg Jets (18-17-7)  43pts  6th in the Central
2.83 Goals For Per Game (20th in the NHL)
2.95 Goals Against Per Game (18th in the NHL)
20.6% Power Play (14th in the NHL)
74.0% Penalty Kill (28th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #81 Kyle Connor ~ 25G 20A = 45pts
2. #80 Pierre-Luc Dubois ~ 18G 15A = 33pts
3. #55 Mark Scheifele ~ 10G 19A = 29pts
4. #9 Andrew Copp ~ 12G 16A = 28pts
5. #25 Paul Stastny ~ 11G 9A = 20pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #80 Pierre-Luc Dubois ~ 50 PIM’s
2. #5 Brendan Dillon ~ 32 PIM’s
3. #17 Adam Lowry ~ 23 PIM’s
Top Goaltenders:
1. #37 Connor Hellebuyck (14-15-6)  2.90GAA  .910%SP  2SO
2. #1 Eric Comrie (4-2-1)  2.34GAA  .920%SP
Lines:
Winnipeg Jets
Copp~Scheifele~Wheeler
Connor~Dubois~Perfetti
Stastny~Lowry~Poganski
Harkins~Toninato~Vesalainen
Dillon~Schmidt
Heinola~Pionk
Morrissey~Kovacevic
Hellebuyck
Comrie
Minnesota Wild
Kaprizov~Hartman~Zuccarello
Fiala~F.Gaudreau~Boldy
Greenway~Eriksson Ek~M.Foligno
Duhaime~Sturm~Dewar
Goligoski~Spurgeon
Dumba~Brodin
Merrill~Kulikov
Talbot
Kahkonen
Welcome back, again I mean. I don’t know about you, but this has been a season of perpetual starts and stops. Because I’m at the point, where I have little feeling for where we are in the season. In a normal, pre-Covid season, making it to February means looking ahead to the playoffs. Between the craziness of postponed games, the meaningless All-Star break, and now the Olympics, I feel like we’re not having the normal conversations we would be having at this time. Instead of talking about the trade deadline, I feel like it’s just a normal day in hockey. Because of that my dear friends is what has me beyond confused. So during the recent All-Star break, we finally got around to really watching Letterkenny. I know we’re late to the game on that one, but it’s been an odd yet enjoyable watch. At least now we know where Marcus Foligno “learned” his jump punch.
So tonight, we’re finally going to be playing a game against the Winnipeg jets, in Winnipeg. I have to admit, I’m kind of surprised Winnipeg hasn’t found a way to postpone this game as well. If you take a look at their injury list on TSN.ca, you would notice that they have ten players on IR. And of those ten players on injured reserve, three of them are on Covid-19 protocol. I know I should be so cynical, but you have to admit the Jets’ reason for postponing so many earlier games was a bit ridiculous. Instead of postponing because of an injury list like they currently have, they postponed because fans weren’t allowed in the building. I have to wonder if they’re kind of regretting that decision now. They could have been higher in the standings by playing games sans fans and more players. But now, they have to take on teams with their current depleted roster.
I’m going to make a bold, unsubstantiated claim here, but it’s something I’ve been wondering about for a bit. Ever since Winnipeg postponed all the home games that they did, I’ve had this one question running through my head. What are the financials like in the Winnipeg Jets organization. See, if they had actually played the games, but without fans, they would have had to refund a lot of money. Instead of just playing the games, it seemed like they were going with the angle of “things aren’t safe for our fans.” However, was this more of a “things aren’t safe for our pocketbooks here in Manitoba.” And let’s face it, other teams in Canada played their games in empty buildings, so there was nothing preventing the Jets from doing so as well.
Now that I’ve gone down the controversial (and possibly conspiracy theory) route, let’s talk about tonight’s matchup. Firstly, let’s starts with some good news. Making his return to the Minnesota lineup is Foligno. If you had asked me when he was acquired by the Wild if he was going to be integral to the overall chemistry, I would have been like “why are you even asking such a silly question.” Yet when he is out of the lineup, his absence is definitely felt. His combination of leadership, offense, and toughness are a rare combo, and we’ve only benefitted by having him on the roster. Secondly, I need to deliver a little bad news. Coming out of the All-Star break, the Wild will be without Matt Dumba. Unfortunately the break wasn’t enough time for him to heal up after his fight with Anders Lee.
After tallying the first shutout by a Wild goaltender this season, I would highly expect Cam Talbot to get the start tonight. While all of his teammates, with the exception of Kirill Kaprizov, got the All-Star weekend off, Talbot put in a decent showing for the Central team. In light of his performance in both the shutout in Chicago and at the All-Star Game, I think the team and the fans needs to see if he can continue to be the goaltender this team needs. While I’ve definitely been a champion for seeing more of Kaapo Kahkonen, I’m not going to argue if the team starts Talbot. At the very least, it’s nice to know we’re finally getting the goaltending this team needs. However, we were getting that goaltending before another annoying stop to the regular season.
While this has been a more determined team this season, any time this team has to play a game in Winnipeg can be a bit of a concern. In fact, just a game against Winnipeg is a cause for concern. I don’t know what it is about the Jets, but somehow they’re able to get into the collective psyche of the Minnesota Wild. This is much like how Chicago, until this season, has been able to write the narrative against Minnesota. But if the Wild can come into the Jets’ home, and start their own narrative early, and shut the fans down, the outcome should be what we need it to be. But, this means that Minnesota needs to play hard and play fast, and turn on the offense before Winnipeg can even think about playing hockey. And that my friends is probably also another reason the Jets didn’t want to play in an empty home arena, because they know how important their fans are to the psyche of their own team.
So let’s take this one.