Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs Carolina Hurricanes


Good afternoon from chilly Minneapolis, Wild rubes! Minnesota is back at it again tonight at 7PM against the Carolina Hurricanes and are looking to claw their way into a tie for 8th in the West with a pair of points and a regulation loss from the Calgary Flames. Tonight’s contest can be seen on FSN and heard on 100.3 KFAN.

First off, and this may be getting to be a little repetitive, Devan Dubnyk will get the call for the 13th straight game.

The Wild are 9-1-2 since his arrival from Arizona. To restate the obvious, Minnesota is just a different team with him between the pipes.

His .943 SV% and 1.48 GAA since his arrival have turned a season that was quickly slipping away into a team worth watching on a nightly basis.

The goalie situation (that phrase is getting really annoying) will be only slightly different as Darcy Kuemper will ride the pine this evening instead of Niklas Backstrom, who will be healthy scratch.

Carrying three goalies on the roster on a nightly basis isn’t ideal, but there really isn’t an alternative that makes sense. For the time being, it seems those two will rotate and see little action while the squad is rolling behind Dubnyk.

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The occasionally criticized Jason Pominville has stepped up recently by scoring three goals in the last three games. His offensive production will be exponentially more important now that the one of the Wild’s leading goal scorers in Jason Zucker broke his collarbone. Pominville won’t replace Zucker’s explosiveness or his ability to create scoring chances, but his production moving forward will ultimately be a gauge of the Minnesota Wild’s stretch run success.

On the other side of the red line, Carolina visits St. Paul tonight trending on the opposite side of the spectrum. The Canes have struggled all season and currently sit on the bottom of the Metropolitan Division standings with 45 points.

Starting in net for Carolina tonight will be backup Anton Khudobin. That name may be familiar to the most diehard of Wild fans since Khudobin played a few years in the Wild’s system, albeit mostly with the former AHL affiliate Houston Aeros. He’ll face the team that drafted him for the first time this evening.

In 19 games backing up Cam Ward, Khudobin is 6-8-3 with a 2.55 GAA and a .909 SV%. The reality of the situation in Carolina is that few goalies would find success there this season.

Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, the offensive side hasn’t given any help to the defense this season. Carolina currently ranks 29th in the NHL (only in front of Buffalo, which is currently attempting to field an AHL team) with 2.13 goals per game.

Leading the defunct offensive charge for Carolina is longtime Cane Eric Stall. His 17 goals and 15 assists are a long way off of his former point per game standards. He’s on pace for his least productive season since his rookie year over a decade ago.

Minnesota can’t afford to drop any games to teams like this. Given their current position and the amount of teams fighting for a playoff spot, it looks like every point is going to matter when the season comes to a close.

Wild Lines: (Same lineup as Thursday)

Parise – Koivu – Pominville

Vanek – Granlund – Schroeder

Nino – Coyle – Fontaine

Veilleux – Haula – Brodziak

Hurricanes Lines:

E. Stall – J. Stall – Tlusty

Skinner – Rask – Lindholm

Gerbe – Nash – Semin

Nestrasil – McClement – Dwyer