Tonight, the Minnesota Wild are set to take on the Boston Bruins in a classic St. Patrick’s Day showdown in Beantown. Sophomore skater Charlie Coyle will make his hometown debut against the team he grew up idolizing with literally hundreds of friends and family in attendance. No pressure, kid.
The Wild enter the night with a 35-22-10 record, good for 80 points and five ahead of ninth place Phoenix, which sits just outside the second wild card spot by virtue of a tie-breaker with Dallas. Minnesota is 6-1-3 in their past 10 games. The Bruins, on the other hand, enter the night on an eight-game win streak with a 45-17-5 record and an Eastern Conference-best 95 points.
After playing on the third line with Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak against Columbus, Coyle finds himself once again skating alongside Wild captain Mikko Koivu and Matt Moulson on the second line. Nino Niederreiter occupied the spot previously, but didn’t fare well against the Blue Jackets. With friends and family in the audience, now is as good a time as any for Coyle to kick things up a notch and pot a few goals. In 55 games this season, the 22-year old forward has seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points and a negative-9 rating.
Justin Fontaine, tied with Dany Heatley and Niederreiter for third on the team in goals with 12, will make his return to the lineup after having not played since March 3rd against the Calgary Flames. After scoring nine points in 12 games from December 12th through January 16th, the former UM-D Bulldog would collect just one assist in 11 games since. With the arrival of Moulson and Cody McCormick, and the return of Koivu, Fontaine found himself keeping the press box warm for the next five games. Tonight, Fontaine has an opportunity to prove he’s worthy of returning to the lineup on a regular basis.
Aside from Fontaine’s return and the Coyle/Niederreiter switch, it appears the forward lines will look similar to what they have been in recent games:
Moulson – Koivu – Coyle
Cooke – Brodziak – Niederreiter
Heatley – Erik Haula - Fontaine
The defense continues to rotate the bottom-pairing defensemen, leaving Nate Prosser as tonight’s healthy scratch. Defensive pairs are as follows:
Darcy Kuemper is the man in net with Ilya Bryzgalov expected to receive the start tomorrow night on Long Island. In 22 games, Kuemper has put together an impressive campaign with a 12-4-4 record, a 2.19 goals against average, a .924 save percentage and two shutouts. If Minnesota’s absolute dominance against Boston is to continue, Kuemper is going to have to be a big part of it with consistent scoring lacking from the bottom three forward lines.
It’s going to be a great matchup tonight. Don’t forget, the game will be on NBC Sports Network at 6:30 PM Central Time instead of Fox Sports North. We’ll see you right back here afterwards.