Minnesota Wild vs New York Islanders: Preview


Dec 20, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Islanders right wing Cal Clutterbuck (15) celebrates after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild are on home ice to take on the New York Islanders at 7 pm.  Yes, home ice where the Wild are 14-3-2.  Minnesota has lost 4 straight road games leading up to this critical 4 game home stand. You could almost hear the players click their heels together and chant, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” after the 6-4 loss in Winnipeg two nights ago.  The Islanders come into the Xcel Energy Center sporting a road record as bad as Minnesota’s going 6-13-0 to date.  This is a great chance for the Wild to get back on track with a win against on of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Wild are going to be missing Zach Parise who has been placed on IR to recover from a nagging foot injury.  That means the forward lines will look pretty much the same as last game.  The top line will be Nino Niederreiter, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle.  The second line features Dany Heatley, Mikael Granlund, and Jason Pominville.  Justin Fontaine,Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke make up the third line.  The fourth liners tonight are Torrey Mitchell,Zenon Konopka and Stephane Veilleux.  The loss of Parise is a big one, but the Wild showed they can score without him in the lineupscoring 3 goals in the first period vs the Jets. The offense for the Wild will have to control the puck and put some rubber on net to beat the Islanders.

Defensively the pairing will be the same as Friday with Ryan Suter with Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon skates with Marco Scandella and Nate Prosser is paired with Keith Ballard.  The D will be charged with slowing down the Isles John Tavares who leads them in point with 39.  Another thing that both the defense and offense need to watch out for is Cal Clutterbuck.  The Wild’s all time hit leader return to the Xcel Energy Center for the first time since his trade to the Islanders for Niederreiter.

Josh Harding has been activated off of IR and is expected to start tonight.  He brings a record of  18-5-3 and a goals against of 1.51 into the game tonight.  The Islanders have been rotating goalies, with Evgeni Nabakov and Kevin Poulin sharing starting duties.  Nabokov sports a record of  7-7-5 with a GAA of 2.88 and a save percentage of .902.  Puolin has a record of 4-12-0 with a GAA of 3.25 and a save % of .892.

What it come down to is this is a very winnable game for he Wild.  If the team can get off to a quick start similar to Friday they should be able to control the flow of the game.  Staying out of the penalty box and capitalizing on the power play are a couple of other must do items.  I’ll be back after the game with a recap and an over view of the nights action.  Until then this is Scott Drain shouting into the cold, crisp, -5 degree air, “Let’s Go Wild!!”