The Minnesota Wild are on the road tonight as they take on the Detroit Red Wings. This is the first game away from the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center this season. The 2-1-0 Wild take on a Red Wings team that has struggled so far, posting a record of 1-2. Joe Louis Arena has not been kind to the Wild over the years, with wins few and far between. Last season, the Wild split the season series 2-2 with Detroit. The last meeting was a 6-0 thrashing by the Red Wings. All time, Detroit has 15 wins in 22 games against the Wild at the “Joe”. The firepower Minnesota has added to the lineup over the past two offseasons should help. Dany Heatley and Zach Parise are both riding three game point streaks heading into tonight’s action. Rookie Jonas Brodin, the Wild’s first round (10th) pick in the 2011 draft, will make his NHL debut tonight. To read the full story of Brodin’s start click here. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo says of Brodin “You see the way he skates, and you see his composure with the puck. He can do things at a very high level .”
Detroit, on the other hand, is trying to shore up their defense. The retirement of Niklas Lidstrom after 20 seasons has left a huge hole in Detroit’s defense. Niklas Kronwall is the man expected to “fill” Lidstrom’s skates. While he is one of the league’s best two-way defenders, replacing a legend is a tall order. Another retirement made official just this week is that of Tomas Holmstrom. “Homer” spent the majority of his 1,026 games with the Wings parked in front of opposing goaltenders. He is widely considered to be one of the all-time greats at play in that area.
A key to tonight’s game for the Wild is stopping Pavel Datsuk. Right, as if any team can “stop” him. The Wild’s defenders will have to really be on top of their game tonight. They will have to do it without half of their top pair. Jared Spurgeon will be out of action. In the last game, he blocked a Nashville shot and suffered a “lower body” injury. Spurgeon left the ice after the first period shot and did manage to return to action midway through the second. He’s not expected to hit the IR list, but will sit out tonight as a precaution, thus the call up of Brodin.. That leaves Ryan Suter teamed up with Tom Gilbert. The other defensive pairings will be Brodin-Clayton Stoner and Justin Falk-Nate Prosser.
Another key will be avoiding penalties and producing on the power play. The Wild’s top PP unit of Heatley, Parise, Koivu, Suter and Bouchard has proved to be deadly so far this season. Their puck movement and play making skills put them up there with the NHL’s best. Detroit may struggle on defense, but keeping their power play units off the ice is critical for Minnesota. A solid performance in the net tonight is a must. Regardless if it’s Harding or Backstrom in goal, a single mistake could spell disaster. With just 2 goals in their past two games, the Wild have a very narrow margin for error. The Wild will be facing a major test in their first game on the first road trip of the year. After the Red Wings, the Wild move on to St. Louis to face the red hot Blues. GonePuckWild.com will have a full game wrap-up after tonight’s action concludes. GO WILD!!