The Minnesota Wild continue on their road trip tonight with a stop in Denver to take on the Avalanche. The puck drops at 8 pm Central Time and will be broadcast on Fox Sports North (FSN) and So far this trip has been bad news for the Wild with losses at Anaheim and San Jose. Minnesota has now lost 5 straight road games dropping their record away from the Xcel Energy Center to 5-8-3. Overall the Wild are 18-11-5 and hold 4th place in the Central Division with 41 points, just a point behind third place Colorado. This is the third meeting of the season between the Wild and Avalanche with Minnesota going 0-1-1 in the first two games.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo is juggling the forward lines one again in hopes of sparking some more scoring and producing a win on the road. Eirc Haula has been called up from the Iowa Wild and will skate on the second line with Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville. Pominville is being moved off of the top line in hopes of producing more goal from that second line. Charlie Coyle is moving to the number one line with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise. The Wild need to gat some goals from that trio tonight if they hope to pick up the victory. The third line will feature Brett Bulmer, Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke while the fourth line consists of Torrey Mitchell, Zenon Konopka, and Dany Heatley.
Defensively the pairing will remain the same with Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin the top pair. Next is Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella and finally Clayton Stoner and Keith Ballard. The defense performed well last game in 5 on 5 situations. The penalty kill is where Minnesota struggled giving up 3 goals on 7 penalty kill situations. The Wild are going to have to cut down on the number of penalties they take and produce when the get a power play. The top Power play unit last game included Koivu, Pominville, Parise, Suter and Spurgeon. This group is going to have to put more pucks at the net than last outing and quit looking for that perfect pass. Crashing the net after the initial shot and scoring on rebounds will be their best bet tonight.
Josh Harding will be in goal tonight versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avalanche. Harding is 16-5-3 on the season and sports a goals against average of 1.52 and a save % of .938, ranking him among the best goal tenders in the league. Varlamov comes into tonight game with a 14-8-0 record, a goals against of 2.48 and a .921 save percentage.
The bottom line for Minnesota tonight is they need some goals. Scoring has been in short supply lately with the Wild producing just five goals in their last 4 games and only 1 per game on this road trip. The lineup changes by Coach Yeo are designed to do one thing and that’s spark some goal production. Defensively the Wild have been good, it’s offensively where the team has been lacking. Maybe the line changes will work tonight. This is an important divisional battle and the Wild have a chance to jump into third in the Central Division standing with a win. The last time these two teams met the Wild mounted a furious third period comeback to force overtime and a shootout. The Avalanche took the extra point winning the shootout.
I’ll be back after the game with a recap and some analysis of the nights action. Until then this is Scott Drain Shouting hopefully, “Let’s Go Wild!”