The Minnesota Wild continue with their eastern road trip facing the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight as the Wild try to get back on track after a disappointing loss that snapped their 3 game win streak at Toronto on Tuesday. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:30 pm Central Time and the game will be on Fox Sports North (FSN). Minnesota currently sits in 4th place in the Central Division with 8 points and a 3-2-2 record . Tampa Bay is 4th in the Atlantic Division also with 8 points and a 4-2-0 mark. The Wild have been a puck possession team so far this season and have out shot all but one opponent. They will need to keep that up tonight against Lightning goalie Ben Bishop who sports a 1.71 goals against average and a .939 save percentage. As a team, the Wild have averaged 2.43 goals a game this season while the Lightning score at a 3.57 pace. Both teams don’t allow many goals with the Wild at 2.29 allowed per game while Tampa Bay gives up 2.50. The Wild are going to need a strong performance from both their goal tender and defense in order to shut down the Lightning’s top lines. One player questionable for tonight is Martin St. Louis who has a foot injury after blocking a shot St. Louis is leading the Lightning in points with 10 (4g, 6a). Also at the top of Tampa Bay’s scoring list are Steven Stamkos with 9 points (4g, 5a), and Teddy Purcell 8 points (4g, 4a). Stamko has twice lead the league in goals scored and is a threat every time he steps on the ice.
Josh Harding should be in goals tonight. He brings a excellent goals against average of .94 and a save percentage of .952 into tonight’s game. His save percentage is tops in the NHL as is his goals against average. Josh has been a work horse early in the season with Niklas Backstrom out with a leg injury. Darcy Kuemper or Backstrom will back up Harding tonight, depending on Backstrom’s injury status.
The Wild counter with a top scorers Mikko Koivu (0g, 5a), Zach Parise (4g, 1a), Matt Cooke(3g, 3a). So far this season the Wild defense has been playing very well allowing a league low 20.6 shots on goal. The top D-pair of Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin have been the minute munchers averaging 28:54 and 25:16 respectively. We’ll have to wait until after the morning skate to see who’s in and who’s out on defense for tonight. Last game the pairs were:
Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin
Offensively the lines should be the same as last game in Toronto with those lines being:
Mikko Koivy-Zach Parise-Nino Niederreiter
The Wild need to keep the Lightning’s scoring chance to a minimum and play the same puck control offense that has given them a chance to win each game this season. The Minnesota defense needs to play tight and give Tampa Bay’s potent scorers room in which to operate. I’ll be back after the game with a recap and some analysis. Until them this is Scott Drain cheering, “Let’s Go Wild!”