With a 1-2-3 record since the trade deadline, tonight is basically a must-win game for the Minnesota Wild.
The Wild stormed Boston early last night, outshooting the Bruins from the get-go, but couldn’t get more than one puck past Tuukka Rask to save their lives. If that continues to happen tonight against the 26-34-9 New York Islanders–well–then this team has a major problem. Minnesota still sits at fourth in the Central Division with a 35-23-10 record and 8o points, good enough (for now) to hold the first of the West’s two wild card spots. If the team is to continue holding onto its lead over eighth and ninth place, they need wins, and they need them now.
Tonight will be the first game back on Long Island for Wild wingers Nino Niederreiter and Matt Moulson–they may even make their return skating on the same line. It looks like the top line will remain intact, which is good considering it’s the only line consistently contributing to the team. In addition, Erik Haula is expected to sit while Charlie Coyle appears likely to move to third line center. However, these moves are all but confirmed as Yeo remains tight lipped about what tonight’s official roster will look like.
If what’s been said is true though, these appear to be the forward lines by process of elimination:
Dany Heatley - Coyle – Fontaine/Niederreiter
The defensive pairs will remain unchanged for the most part, aside from Keith Ballard taking Nate Prosser’s place in the press box. Ilya Bryzgalov will get the second start of his Wild career after stopping 20 of 22 shots in a 3-2 shootout loss to St. Louis on March 9th.
On one hand, this looks like an easy win. The Isles are the fourth-worst team in the league–third-worst in the East–they’ve been just plain bad, especially with captain John Tavares out for likely the rest of the season. Still, for this Wild team, nothing is a cake walk. That’s not to say this isn’t a good team or one that isn’t playoff bound, it’s just that Minnesota sports fans and franchises have a hate/hate relationship with Murphy’s Law. That said, Minnesota needs to come out sharp and ready to play, because they’ll need every win they can get with less than a month to go in the regular season.
In other news, the Wild are among several teams said to be heavily pursuing undrafted collegiate free agent Greg Carey. Carey spent three years with the Burlington Cougars–an Ontario Junior “A” team–scoring 113 goals and 88 assists for 201 points in 139 games. He then took his point-per-game-plus scoring pace with him to the NCAA’s St. Lawrence University, scoring 84 goals and 101 assists for 185 points in 152 games. His 51 points in 38 games last season made him a Hobey Baker Award finalist as the NCAA’s Top Collegiate Player. In addition, Minnesota is also said to be interested in his younger brother, Matt, who dominated juniors himself before putting together a solid freshman collegiate campaign with 18 goals and 19 assists for 37 points in 38 games.
The puck is set to drop tonight on Long Island at 6:00 PM Central Time and will air on Fox Sports North. We’ll see you right back here afterwards.