Minnesota Wild meet Washington Capitals – Game Preview


Nov 5, 2013; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise (11) looks on during the third period against the Calgary Flames at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Flames 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild are headed for the nation’s capital tonight to meet the Washington Capitals for a 6 p.m. (central) face off.

Tonight’s game is a match-up of two hot teams – Both the Wild and the Capitals are riding three-game winning streaks and have been outscoring opponents by wide margins.

The winner of this contest will likely be decided by which squad plays better on special teams. The Caps have the league’s best power play, scoring 27.9 percent of the time with a man advantage. The Wild are second in the league on the power play, scoring on 25 percent.

The Capitals certainly look to have the edge in the penalty killing department – their 91.5 percent kill rate is also a league best, compared to the Wild’s 77.8 percent, good for 25th in the league.

Wild goaltender Josh Harding will get another start tonight, and with good reason. He leads all NHL netminders in GAA (1.09) and save percentage (.951). Wild head coach Mike Yeo is aware of the heavy workload Harding has been carrying lately, and says he wants to work Niklas Backstrom into the rotation with more consistency, but in this marquee match-up, the Wild will look to the goalie with the hot hand.

The question for the Wild will be whether they can keep getting scoring from a variety of players. After “Graninoville” lit the lamp and won over Minnesota fans with a scoring spree, the top line responded last game against Calgary. Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle combined for three goals and reminded the crowd why they’re listed as the top line.

One reminder, sans Coyle on the 4v4:

Traveling to Washington has not been friendly to the Wild in the past. They’re 1-5-0 visiting the Caps and have score more than a single goal just once in those contests. Things are different for the Wild these days, though; Minnesota fans might hardly recognize a team winning its last two by a combined eight goals.

The Wild’s forward lines remain unchanged from Tuesday. Parise – Koivu – Coyle look to stay hot, while Niederreiter – Granlund – Pominville look to pick up where they left off. Cooke – Brodziak – Fontaine and Heatley – Konopka – Mitchell make up the third and fourth lines.

Nate Prosser enters the Wild lineup, replacing the ailing Keith Ballard on the blue line. Ballard came off Tuesday after he looked to have taken a blocked shot. Of note for Wild fans, Matthew Dumba was not selected to replace Ballard. Prosser makes sense, facing a physical Washington team, but all eyes have been on the Wild brass to make the looming Dumba decision.

Suter and Broding will be the Wild’s top D-pair, followed by Prosser – Stoner and Spurgeon – Scandella. The defensemen have been playing great hockey lately – it will be tough for Dumba to edge anyone out.

For a closer look at game day stats, check out Ger Devine’s advance, and let’s go Wild.