The Minnesota Wild are in Winnipeg to take on the Jets in their final road game of the regular season. These Centrral Division rivals have battled 4 times in the 2013-14 season with the Minnesota Wild taking 3 victories and 6 of 8 total points. The Wild’s magic number is down to 3 entering play tonight. With 4 games left on the schedule Minnesota just needs to keep on winning, they are in control of their own destiny in the push for the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Wild have 92 points and they are 5 points ahead the Dallas Stars and 6 points ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes for the top Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. The Coyotes have 4 games left to play as do the Stars so the issue of games in hand is moot entering the homestretch of the regular season. The Jets are buried in last place in the Central Division a full dozen points behind the Minnesota Wild. The Jets are playing for little more than pride at this point while the Wild are still locked in a chase for playoff positioning. Winnipeg would love to play the role of spoiler and Minnesota would love to defeat their rival to the north a fourth time in five opportunities this season.The forward lines for the Minnesota Wild will start off the same as the last few games given the success that lineup has had. These lines have picked up 7 of a possible 8 points over the last 4 games. The Wild are 16-17-7 on the road this season and look to finish off the road part of their schedule at .500 with a victory at the MTS Center tonight. Over the last several games the Wild have been getting scoring from all four lines. The lines for tonight at puck drop will be the following but that is definitely subject to change by Head Coach Mike Yeo as the game moves along.
Heading into play tonight the leading scorers for the Minnesota Wild are; Pominville (27g, 27a=54pts), Parise (28g, 25a=53pts), Koivu (11g, 39a=50pts), Moulson (22g, 26a=48pts), Suter (7g, 35a=42pts), Granlund (8g, 33a=41), and Niederreiter (13g, 21,=34pts). That’s the complete list of Minnesota Wild players who have accumulated 30 or more points this season, a total of 7 players. As the regular season nears it’s end it looks like the Wild will have just a pair of 20 goal scorers, the same as the top players in points. In the assist category 7 players currently have 20 or more assists with Koivu leading the way with 39. That list of top assists has two defensemen on it, Suter and Spurgeon, currently the top defensive pairing.
The Wild offense tonight needs to come out of the gate flying high tonight. The Minnesota Wild average 2.41 goals a game this season to the Winnipeg Jets 2.70 goal scoring average. Defensively is where Minnesota has the advantage, allowing the 6th least goals per game in the NHL at 2.38 a night. Winnipeg is nearly a half a goal a game and 16 places in the rankings worse at 2.86 goals an outing. I think the Wild are going to need 4 goals of more to win this game tonight while keeping the Jets to 3 or fewer. The first goal of the game is going to be rather important as the Wild seem to play with more confidence when they take the early lead. Minnesota has shown the ability to come back in games as they showed in victories in L.A. and Phoenix.
The defensive pairings for tonight will remain unchanged with Suter and Spurgeon leading the way. the pairing tonight will be as follows:
The Wild D will be in charge of slowing down the Jets top 4 of Blake Wheeler (27g, 40a=67pts), Bryan Little (23g, 40a=63pts), Dustin Byfuglien (20g, 36a=56pts )and Andrew Ladd (23g, 31a=54pts). If the Wild can score first, putting the Jetsd in the position of having to come from behind. Winnipeg has struggled mightily in that role this season. Scoring first, scoring second as long as the Minnesota Wild score the most that what counts tonight.
Ilya Bryzgalov will be starting in net tonight. He is unbeaten in regulation since joining the Wild at the trade deadlin00 aksree going 5-0-3 in that span. He has a goals against average of 1.87 and a save percentage of .920 since putting on the Minnesota Wild colors. THis should be an exciting game tonight. The two teams are developing an intense rivalry and there is little love lost each time they meet. I’ll be back after the action tonight with a recap and analysis of the events. Puck drop is 7 pm Central Time and you can catch the game on Fox Sports Net (FSN) or listen in on KFAN 100.3 FM. Until next time this is Scott Drain shouting out into a beautiful spring day, “LET’S GO WILD, LET’S GO WILD, BEAT THE JETS!!”