The Minnesota Wild are HOT-HOT-HOT right now and look to keep things going tonight against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena tonight. This is going to be a real test for Minnesota, they are on a three game winning streak and playing their best hockey of the season. Over the last 10 games the wild are 7-3-0 while Detroit is 5-3-2. Tonight’s action will be on a big stage with the game on the NBC Sports Network starting at 6:30 Minnesota Time (CST). The Wild need to continue playing the tough, aggressive style of hockey that got them a win in Vancouver last game and sees them sitting alone atop the Northwest Division. Minnesota sits in third in the Western Conference, but only two points separate them from the 6th place Canucks. The Red Wings are currently 7th in the West with 33 points. Got that? The playoff standings are murky right now with 1 or 2 wins or losses making all the difference in the standings. Every point is extra precious with the truncated season. The Wild are up against playoff teams right now with Vancouver last game, Detroit tonight and the San Jose Sharks on Saturday.
Minnesota is up against a Detroit team that is weaker than they have been in years. That being said this is still a Red Wings team loaded with talent, speed, and the ability to score on any shift. The biggest difference in ‘etroit’s game is they have lost their D. The retirement of Nicholas Lidstrom has left a gaping hole in the Red Wings defense corps and they have struggled to shut down the oppositions top lines. Good news for the boys from St. Paul! Both Minnesota and Detroit rank in the top ten in the league in goals against with 2.43 and 2.53 averages per game. The Wild score an average of 2.50 goals per game good for 21st in the NHL. Detroit’s scoring is down this year as they rank 17th with 2.62 goals per game. The Wild have a lot of weapons on offense this season. The top line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle have combined for 20 goals and 30 assists so far this season. Some other players have gotten hot as of late. Matt Cullen has a goal and five assists during a five-game points streak, Devin Setoguchi has four goals and two assists during a four-game points streak and a total of 16 points in his last 17 games. That makes him the 5th leading scorer on the team. Pierre-Marc Bouchard has a goal and four assists during his three-game point streak, for a total of 3 goals and 7 assists on the year. The Wild also have defensemen putting up points as well. Ryan Suter has totaled 2 goals and 21 assists so far while his partner Jonas Brodin has two goals in the past three games. Tonight the forward lines will be the same as last game versus Vancouver. Those lines are as follows:
Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, and Charlie Coyle
Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, and Pierr-Marc Bouchard
The Wild are going to need some more scoring from the top line. They have totaled just points in the last two games. Another area the Wild need to continue to be strong in is the penalty kill. Minnesota is ranked 5th in the NHL with an 85.9% rate, Detroit’s PK is almost 6 percentage points worse ranking 18th in the league. The power plays for both squads are suffering a bit the season with the Wild’s at 17.2% and the Red Wings at 15.8%. They both rank in the bottom half of the league. Capitalizing on the power play is a must for Minnesota tonight. They have scored a couple of power play goals as of late, but most of the time they have played poorly with the man advantage. Minimizing time in the penalty box, limiting Detroit’s time on the power play will go a long way towards a win tonight.
Niklas Backstrom will be in net for the Wild tonight. He is 11-3-1 in his last 15 games and has settled into his role as the clear number one goal tender in Minnesota. Backstrom and the defense will have to be at their best tonight. Detroit has some of the most dangerous scorers in the league with Pavel Datsyuk (9 g, 21 a), Henrik Zetterberg (8 g, 22 a), Damien Brunner (10 g, 10 a) and D-man Niklas Kronwall (5g, 17a). It’s going to be the job of Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin and the rest of the Wild defense to shout them down or at a minimum, limit scoring chances. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo says there will be no changes in the defensive pairings tonight. Those are as follows:
Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin
The Wild will have their hands full tonight against Detroit. They need to continue their trend of getting off to a fast start, scoring the first goal and forechecking the heck out of their opponent. This is a very winnable game for the Wild and a chance to put some more distance between themselves and the rest of the Northwest Division. Puck drop is at 6:30 and GonePuckWild will be back with analysis and a recap after the game. Until then this is Scott Drain proudly saying, LET’S GO WILD!