Minnesota Wild vs Florida Panthers Preview


The Minnesota Wild look to start new winning streak as they faceoff against the Florida Panthers.

Good afternoon Wild fans! The weather is beautiful outside. 67 degrees and partly cloudy. Well, that is from my Orlando, Florida home, but nonetheless, a perfect day for hockey. The Wild will take on the Panthers for the second time this year as the look to follow-up on their 4-1 victory back on November 24th. That win, however, took place in Florida. The Wild will look to continue their recent dominance at home against another tough opponent.

Yes, I said tough opponent. Given the excruciating attendance in Sunrise, Florida, the Panthers have the same amount of points as the Wild and are in the middle of a playoff race themselves. Former Wild  defenseman Willie Mitchell is wearing the “C” for the Panthers as they are rebuilding their team with young and veteran talent. Another reason for their surprising success is the homecoming of Roberto Luongo who was acquired at the trade deadline last year from the Vancouver Canucks. Luongo is 20-13-9 this year with a 2.44 GAA and .919 save percentage, which is right at his career average.

Feb 10, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Minnesota Wild forward Jason Pominville (29) takes a shot during the first period against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

If the Wild want to enter another “W” in the win column and shorten the gap in the playoff race, they will need to draw penalties and convert on the power play. The Panthers 21st in penalty-kill percentage (79.7%) and 27th in power-play percentage (15.7%). The Wild will need to cycle the puck effectively and get solid scoring chances on the power-play to defeat the Panthers as they are a sound team defensively at even strength.

The Wild recalled my favorite Wild player Stephane Veilleux and sent down Brett Sutter. Tonight’s game will mark Veilleux’s 500th career NHL game. Veilleux, who is a gritty forward, will be used on the penalty-kill and will provide a spark that will ignite the Wild immensely. What Veilleux does best does not show up on the scoresheet, but he does have a big impact every time he is on the ice.

Watch Veilleux‘s pregame presser here:

In addition to Veilleux rejoining the Wild, Wild coach Mike Yeo has also shuffled lineups for tonight’s game:

Parise – Koivu – Pominville

Vanek – Granlund – Schroeder

Niederreiter – Coyle – Fontaine

Veilleux – Haula – Brodziak

I am excited to see how the new Koivu lineup will mesh. It will either be huge success or it will take a couple games to gel, personally, I think we will see a spark in that line tonight.

Here are my three bold predictions for tonight’s game:

1. Parise, party of two: Zach Parise has been held without a goal in four straight games. With a day off, and playing along side a veteran center in Mikko Koivu, I would be shocked to see him off the scoresheet. Look for a big night in Parise.

2. Vanek: I am excited to see how Thomas Vanek and Mikael Granlund play together. Though they both seem to be pass-first forwards, I think Vanek will start shooting more with Granlund centering his line. Look for some big opportunities tonight for this line, and a goal by Vanek.

3. Veilleux: Because I am so excited to see Stephane Veilleux play again, I am looking forward to seeing the grit he brings to his line. Look for him to get under the Panthers’…fur? Look for him to energize the “X” with a fight tonight, and a helper on a Kyle Brodziak goal.

Wild 5, Panthers 1