Minnesota Wild vs Pittsburgh Penguins Preview


Desperate Minnesota Wild need big win in Pittsburgh.

When you look at statement games to build off and go on a winning streak, this is the Minnesota Wild’s last chance to do so. You look at the two games against Chicago along with the game against the Nashville Predators; all resulted in losses.

The Wild are now faced with a tough match-up against a Pittsburgh Penguins team who are in the top 10 in the four major statistical categories. The Wild’s schedule will ease up a bit after their stop in Pittsburgh which is why I feel this game is a must win. If the Wild can take care of business in Pittsburgh and take that momentum in Buffalo, that can lead to bigger things and a great swing in momentum for a team that desperately needs it.

Unfortunately, not many things went well for the Wild in Chicago and it seems that they will have to wipe out everything from that game and start fresh; but how many times can they keep doing that? We have seen the shots, but can’t seem to find the back of the net.

I haven’t seen the projected lineups for the match-up, however, I would like to see Zach Parise lined up with Jason Zucker and Thomas Vanek. We can all agree that Zucker has been the only ray of shining light in the last week, and he deserves top line minutes. I would love to see him rewarded and to see what he can do with Parise, who is looking for his first goal since reuniting with the Wild after his father’s passing. I would like to see Mikko Koivu with Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter at the second line and Erik Haula with Charlie Coyle and Justin Fontaine on the third followed by Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak, and Ryan Carter on the fourth. We’ll see what Wild coach Mike Yeo decides to do prior to puck drop.

Jan 8, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker (16) celebrates his goal during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

If the Wild want to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, they need to get the power-play working. We saw how good it can be, but their last few games has also shown how horrid the power-play can be. Not only does the power-play have to be effective, but their penalty-kill unit has to be just as effective as the Penguins are 7th in the league at 21.6% on the power-play. Whoever can win the special teams battle will end up winning this game.

Here are my three big things for tonight’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins:

1. The power-play will score at least one goal. I think the time has come where the Wild revamp the power-play units and strategies. Their entries have been rough and they haven’t done a great job sustaining pressure. I think it’s time for Pominville to stop running the point with Ryan Suter and it’s time to bring in Marco Scandella or Jared Spurgeon to replace him. Look for some missiles on the blue lines and some deflections by Vanek and Parise in front of the net.

2. The penalty-kill unit will be perfect. You know that you can’t take bad penalties against the Penguins. Adversely, there will be times where they will make you draw penalties. If the Wild can limit their penalties against the Penguins and eliminate costly turnovers, they will eliminate the Penguins’ chance to score a power-play goal.

3. Zach Parise. I think Parise will be everywhere tonight; I don’t think there is a Wild player that wants this game more than him. He will be angry and he will be under the Penguins’ skin all day. I think he will draw some offensive zone penalties and notch in a couple goals. He will have to be the game’s number one star if the Wild are going to win in Pittsburgh.

Wild 5, Penguins 3