The Minnesota Wild face off against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Xecel Energy Center at 7pm this evening. The game will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports Network. The Wild return to home ice after a trip to Denver that saw them salvage a point from a home and home series with the Colorado Avalanche over the weekend. The Wild currently sit in 4th place in the very competitive Central Division with 35 points, 3 back of 3rd place Colorado and 6 ahead of 5th place Nashville. The Flyers come to St. Paul holding down 5th place in the Metropolitan Division with 26 points on a 12-12-2 record. The Wild are 15-8-5 overall and a very good, 10-3-2 on home ice this season.
While Minnesota has been plagued by poor starts as of late they looked and skated better in Saturday’s game than they have in the previous three losses leading up to the shootout with the Avalanche. Once again this evening it’s imperative that the Wild get off to a fast, aggressive, and smart start. In each of the last 7 games Minnesota has surrendered the game first goal and had to play from behind for the majority of those games. They have a chance to take two points from an Eastern Conference foe that has struggled to find it’s scoring touch this season. The Flyers have already undergone a change at Head Coach. Craig Berube was promoted to head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers on October 7, 2013 when the team fired Peter Laviolette. Since that change Philadelphia has managed to crawl back to a .500 record after a miserable start to the season.
The Goal tending matchup should be interesting as the Wild plan to start Josh Harding with his record of 13-4-3 and goals against average of 1.52 and save percentage at .936. Philadelphis will counter with Steve Mason who bring a record of 9-8-2 and a goals against of 2.09 and save percentage at .934.
Tonight’s forward lines should be a bit different than Saturday with Jason Zucker being sent back down to the Iowa Wild and the return of Mike Rupp to the lineup. Rupp missed the last game to attend to a family manner and was briefly placed on non roster status. Zenon Konopka is still recovering from an eye injury he suffer when hit by a puck in Friday night’s Wild vs Av’s match up and he is listed as day to day. Mikael Granlund is on IR after suffering an upper body injury, thought to be a concussion, in his first game back from another injury. Actually his return lasted all of one shift of 29 seconds. The Forward lines for tonight, to start the game at least, look to be; MIkko Koivu-Zach Parise-Jason Pominville, Nino Niederreiter-Charlie Coyle-Dany Heatley, Justin Fontaine-Kyle Brodziak-Matt Cooke, and Torrey Mitchell-Eric Haula-Zenon Konopka. If Konopka is in the lineup look for Mike Rupp to be a healthy scratch.
Defensive Wild head Coach Mike Yeo swithed up two of his defensive pairings Saturday in Denver putting Jared Spurgeon with Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin with Marco Scandella. That experiment didn’t last too long and by the third period Spurgeon and Scandella were reunited as were Suter and Brodin. Tonight Id ex[ect those pairs to remain the same and the third pair to be Keith Ballard and Clayton Stoner. That leaves Mathew Dumba and Nate Prosser as the Healthy Scratches.
Tonight is and excellent opportunity for the Wild to pick up two valuable points in the standings. They will need to come out hard against a desperate team from Philly take the lead and play their game. I’ll be back after the game with a recap and some analysis. Until then this is Scott Drain shouting out, “Let’s Go Wild!!!”