Minnesota Wild: Preseason Pregame at Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - APRIL 20: Connor Hellebuyck #37 of the Winnipeg Jets makes a save off Jordan Greenway #18 of the Minnesota Wild in Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 20, 2018 at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - APRIL 20: Connor Hellebuyck #37 of the Winnipeg Jets makes a save off Jordan Greenway #18 of the Minnesota Wild in Game Five of the Western Conference First Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 20, 2018 at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images) /
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Hockey has finally returned, and tonight the Minnesota Wild will open the preseason hockey with a trip north to take on the Winnipeg Jets in a rematch of last year’s playoff series.

Puck Drop will be at 7pm central time, coming from the MTS Center in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Long time Minnesota Wild reporter Michael Russo, shared on his Twitter feed the Line Up Card for tonight’s game. So we are going to analyze Who’s In and Who’s Out.

Forwards

The common theme running through tonight’s roster, is that the long time Wild players and top line producers all get a chance to ease themselves into training camp before getting any game action. The biggest returning names to be dressed for tonight’s contest are Nino Niederreiter and Charlie Coyle.

Nino is in an interesting position, as he will be playing among an entire team of players who he is not expected to start the season with. Projections show him being among the Top 6 forwards for the start of the season, however none of his projected line mates will be dressed to play alongside him.

My best guess on this, is he will be out there playing alongside some young kids to see how they can perform when paired with a proven NHL forward. Ivan Lodnia, Connor Dewar, and Kyle Rau stand out as the types of players coaches would like to see in a heavier offensive role.

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The first line will be our first look at what should be the Minnesota Wild’s third line come opening night. Coyle should lineup alongside Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek on tonight’s top line. NHL.com is reporting that Greenway has been seeing more time at Center during camp, making Ek play on the wing.

This is an interesting wrinkle to watch play out tonight, because it definitely would give the line more flexibility to test all combinations. Coyle has played center in the past as well, so having 3 guys who can play center and wing interchangeably is a good problem to have.

Also in at forward tonight, New arrivals Eric Fehr, Matt Hendricks and J.T. Brown should see time on a line with Marcus Foligno in a potential 4th line role come opening day. Rounding out those forwards who made the trip are Sam Anas and Justin Kloos.

Someone from this group will have to sit out, as the Minnesota Wild brought 13 forward to Winnipeg with them. If I were to hazard a guess, I would think that Foligno or Nino would be the likely choices to be left out of the lineup and allow the players less likely to make opening night.

Defense

Like the forward group, the top 2 defensive lines will also be sitting out this game. This will mean the new pairing of Nick Seeler and Greg Pateryn should line up as the top pairing and look to show their potential as a shutdown pair.

Seeler and Pateryn are looking to find some chemistry in a fight for the final D pairing in the Minnesota Wild roster. They have skated well together in practice so far, and we should be watching carefully to see how they perform in game action.

Gustav Olofsson and Ryan Murphy are both fighting for the last spot in the NHL Roster, Murphy is on a 2way contract and can be assigned to Iowa without waivers. Olofsson needs to secure his spot, otherwise he will be placed on waivers and could see himself claimed by another team.

Matt Bartkowski and Louie Belpedio should form the third pairing tonight, and it looks like a hard-hitting 3rd pair on paper. Both appear to be on the outside looking in, as far as the Defensive picture goes. They are fighting with the other four players in tonight’s lineup, and a strong showing by either or both could put them back in the long term discussion again.

Goalies

Andrew Hammond will get the start in net, with Dereck Baribeau backing him up. Hammond is looking for a strong start to the preseason as he battles for the NHL backup position in goal.

Being as this is preseason, it is very possible that each goalie only sees a half game of action so Hammond will need to make his statement early to stay in the talks alongside Alex Stalock.

Baribeau should be using this more as a learning experience, than anything. He is not likely to see anytime in the NHL or AHL this year, and is most likely returning to the CHL for his final season before making the jump to the pros. He finally earned his first win at the prospect tournament last weekend, and should look to build on that with his training camp time.

Winnipeg Jets

The keys to note about the Winnipeg lineup tonight, are that they aren’t taking it easy on Minnesota. Star forwards Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine will be in the lineup, and Dustin Byfuglien will be manning the blueline.

The Minnesota Wild will be icing 4 shutdown defensemen along with their top checking forwards. It looks like this will be a battle of the Jets offense against the Wild defense. In order to get a win, Minnesota will be looking for their secondary scoring to be on display with the top scorers sitting out.

Winnipeg will be starting Laurent Brossoit in net, so if there is a ray of hope for the Wild it will be that the goaltending on the other side should be beatable. Look for the Coyle line to be the best line on the ice, and the Fehr line with Seeler/Pateryn to potentially be tasked with shutting down the Laine line.

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Prediction:

Looking at the overall rosters tonight, I think the Wild are fielding the more complete team. I say we look at a 5-3 Minnesota Wild win.