Greetings from my living room recliner! Scott is in a bit of a bind of the vehicle variety, so I’ve got your game preview for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens.
First things first, the game will not be on Fox Sports North, meaning I get a few more hours of sleep instead of watching the game on DVR after work. I digress. The game will, however, be on RDS, Fox Sports Wisconsin and FSN+.
The Minnesota Wild enter the night with a 6-4-3 record, including an impressive 4-1-2 at home, for 15 points on the season. They are currently ranked No. 9 in the Western Conference, and No. 4 in the Norris–er–Central Division. The Wild take on the Canadiens, a team with 16 points and an 8-5-0 record to put them tied for third in the Eastern Conference and second in the Atlantic Division. Oh, yeah, don’t know if you heard, but this is the first matchup between Wild No. 1 defenseman Ryan Suter and Habs No. 1 defenseman P.K. Subban, since the Eastern Conference writers of the Professional Hockey Writers Association helped Subban–a great defenseman in his own right–steal the Norris Trophy away from the NHL’s best defenseman of the season (Suter). But, you know, whatevs.
The big news of the day? Three high impact players make their return to the lineup tonight for the Wild. As already mentioned yesterday, Charlie Coyle is back in the lineup, and finds himself centering Zach Parise and Dany Heatley on what’s technically considered the team’s “top” line. As a rookie, Coyle would spend most of last season on the right side of Mikko Koivu on the Wild’s top line, leading all Minnesota rookies with eight goals and six assists for 14 points and a plus-3 rating in 37 games.
With the recent roster shakeup, tonight’s lines appear to be the ones listed below.
Parise – Coyle – Heatley
Nino Niederreiter – Mikko Koivu – Kyle Brodziak
Jason Pominville – Mikael Granlund – Matt Cooke
Justin Fontaine – Zenon Konopka – Torrey Mitchell
Ryan Suter – Jonas Brodin
Keith Ballard – Clayton Stoner
Jared Spurgeon – Marco Scandella
That’s right–you didn’t read the defensive pairings wrong–both Keith Ballard and Jonas Brodin find themselves back in the lineup. Oh, and the NHL’s leader in goals against average (1.00) and save percentage (.953) is back in net for Minnesota. That’s Josh Harding, if I wasn’t obvious enough.
Since I’m taking this lineup off of the Wild website’s game preview, I have to wonder if these lines and pairings are in their correct order, or just the way the writer thought they should be. The thing that tips me off is the defensive pairing of Scandella and Spurgeon being listed as the bottom pairing. That’s not the Wild’s bottom pairing–really–no pairing with Spurgeon on it is a bottom pairing in Minnesota. That’s not to reflect on Stoner and Ballard, as they’ll log a lot of minutes playing their trademark shutdown, physical game.
In fact, I have to wonder how many minutes Jonas Brodin will log tonight after missing the past three games with a broken cheekbone. Prior to the injury, Brodin was swiftly ascending through the ranks as one of the league’s best young defensemen with three goals and three assists for six points and an even plus-minus rating in 10 games. Brodin’s three goals, one more than he scored in 45 games played last season, led the league’s blue liners up until he was knocked out of the lineup.
There’s no question the trio of Coyle, Ballard and Brodin (quartet if you include Harding) has a big chance to make an impact in their return to the lineup. It all starts tonight against the Canadiens. Be sure to check back with us here at Gone Puck Wild for tonight’s recap after the game.