Minnesota Wild Go For 3 Straight Wins


The Minnesota Wild will face-off against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight as the Wild try to win their third straight game for the first time since Mid-November.

Since acquiring Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes, the Wild have looked like a revamped team all around as they have scored 10 goals and allowed only 1. In hindsight, the Wild allowed 29 goals and scored only 10 goals in the 6 games prior, all were losses.

Jan 17, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild celebrate a goal scored by forward Jason Zucker (16) during the second period against the Arizona Coyotes at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Not only has the goaltending been significantly improved since acquiring Dubnyk, the defense has stepped up there game impressively despite Ryan Suter’s two game suspension. Matt Dumba was called up and has played well on the third pairing. Dumba scored a goal against the Sabres and has been a plus/minus 3 in his two games back with the Wild.

It’s easy to discredit the Wild’s two victories because they came against two of the worst teams in the NHL. However, two wins right now are going to go a long way for the Wild as they look to make a playoff push. If the Wild can pull out a win tonight against the Blue Jackets and tomorrow in Detroit, the Wild will be a huge threat following the All Star break.

First, the Wild need to take care of business tonight against a determined Blue Jackets team who is looking to make some noise before they host the Chicago Blackhawks and the rest of the NHL All Stars. Side note, have you seen the All Star uniforms? Eek! If the NHL expands to Seattle, I think we have an inside look on what their uniforms will look like!

Watch Wild coach Mike Yeo’s pregame presser:

The Blue Jackets, who are lead with Nick Foligno (18 goals, 23 assists) and Ryan Johansen (17 goals, 26 assists) have the league’s third best power-play but are 24th in the league in goals per game (2.5), 26th in goals against (3.2) and 22nd in penalty kill (79.2%). It will be important for the Wild to play smart, as they have in their last two games, and not take unnecessary penalties. It will also be important to continue improving defensively which will be much easier with the return of Ryan Suter who is slated to start with Jonas Brodin. Michael Russo, of the Star Tribune, reports that Wild coach Mike Yeo will alter the defensive pairings throughout the game to spread the minutes more evenly. Here are the projected defensive pairings:

Suter – Brodin

Spurgeon – Dumba

Scandella – Folin

I am excited to see Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon play next to each other. The first thing that jumps out to me is fire power; those guys have cannons for shots. Coach Yeo also commented on Dumba’s progress since returning to the Wild and is hopeful that he can continue to eliminate the costly errors.

Russo also reported that Mikael Granlund has continued skating with the team but hasn’t been taking any contact. With that being said, there is a chance he could return to the lineup tomorrow against the Detroit Red Wings; however, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sit out and return after the All Star break. I would expect Yeo to keep the same offensive lineups that he used for the Coyotes game on Saturday.

Parise – Koivu – Pominville

Zucker – Haula – Vanek

Niederreiter – Coyle – Carter

Cooke – Brodziak – Fontaine

Devan Dubnyk will get his third consecutive start tonight.

The Wild are playing with a lot of confidence and things are starting to come together. Here are my three bold predictions for tonight’s game:

1. Charlie Coyle scores his 6th goal of the year. This is a guy who just can’t seem to catch a break. He plays so hard and is great around the boards, but always seems to come up short when it comes to scoring goals. He scored his 5th goal of the year against the Coyotes and I like him to score his 6th tonight. I like him and Nino playing together. Look for “Zoyle” to connect at times throughout the game as well.

2. Suter will record two assists. Suter has been watching the game from the press boxes in the last two games because of his suspension. That could prove to be very valuable as he has been the NHL’s time-on-ice leader throughout the season. I like him to get some breakout passes to Jason Zucker and knock in an assist on the power-play as well. That leads me to number 3.

3. Zucker stays hot. This guy has been something else this year. Jason Zucker has continued to provide offense for the Wild as he scored his 16th goal of the year against the Coyotes on a beautiful breakout goal with a nice helper from Justin Fontaine. Expect more of the same tonight as he continues to make a name for himself across the NHL. Perhaps GMs across the league will regret not voting him to the All Star team!

Wild 4, Blue Jackets 1