The Christmas holidays are over, and the Minnesota Wild are right back into action as they head north to Winnipeg to take on the Jets. The inter-divisional competition tends to bring a heavy game between these two clubs, and the holidays are unlikely to change that, especially with the Wild just three points behind the Jets in the standings. The Wild are coming into the game with 12 wins in their last 16 games, producing an impressive 0.750 points percentage, and will be looking to get back on track after dropping their last game to the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 22.
Kirill Kaprizov, Matthew Boldy, Jared Spurgeon, and Marc-Andre Fleury (The Hockey Writers)
The Jets will also be looking to get back on track after losing three of their last four after losing one of their top point producers, Blake Wheeler, to injury. Even without Wheeler, the Jets have a trio of point-per-game players in Josh Morrissey, Kyle Connor, and Pierre-Luc Dubois, who are all shown that they are more than capable of controlling a game. The Wild have shown they have what it takes to beat the Jets as they managed a decisive 6-1 win on Nov.23, but they will be without the services of Marcus Foligno tonight, who had two goals in that game, as he has a lower-body injury.
Wild Projected Lineup
Kirill Kaprizov – Sam Steel – Mats Zuccarello
Matt Boldy – Frederick Gaudreau – Ryan Hartman
Jordan Greenway – Joel Eriksson Ek – Ryan Reeves
Adam Beckman – Connor Dewar – Sammy Walker
Jacob Middleton – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill – Calen Addison
Filip Gustavsson – Marc Andre Fleury
Jets Projected Lineup
Pierre-Luc Dubois – Mark Scheifele – Kyle Connor
Michael Eyssimont – Adam Lowry – Morgan Barron
Alex Jonsson-Fjallby – Logan Stanley – Karson Kuhlman
Jansen Harkins – David Gustafsson – Sam Gagner
Josh Morrissey – Dylan Demelo
Brenden Dillon – Neal Pionk
Ville Heinola – Kyle Capobianco
Connor Hellebuyck – David Rittich
3 Keys to the Game
Young Guns are Noticeable
The Wild have recalled Walker, Beckman, and Andre Sustr from the Iowa Wild to reinforce a depleted roster with Foligno injured and Mason Shaw suspended two games for kneeing. The loss of Foligno means the Wild will be without their best shutdown line and will instead be relying on their prospects to step up and be noticeable.
Related: 5 Wild Prospects to Watch at the 2023 World Juniors
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Both Walker and Beckman have drawn into four NHL games this season and have had strong enough performances to be worthy of the first calls to fill gaps in the roster. Walker was with Wild as recently as Dec. 16 and was only sent down due to Hartman’s return from injury.
The Wild were heating up with a six-game winning streak before a tough loss to the Sharks just before the Christmas holidays. Erik Karlsson took advantage of a Wild team that already looked like they were on vacation and gifted himself a four-point night. The Wild are going to want to forget that game and go right back to the style of play that had them climbing the standings before that. Strong defense, limiting shots, and winning board battles produced a series of six games where the Wild allowed an average of just one goal per game.
Win the Battle of the Vezina Winners
Both teams will likely be going to with their respective starters in Connor Hellebuyck and Fleury after the holiday rest creating a battle of the 2020 and 2021 Vezina Trophy winners. Both goalies have had some strong play in their last five starts, and while Fleury has the advantage in save percentage (.919 over .910) and goals against average (2.23 over 2.81), Hellebuyck has faced more shots against (155 over 136) and has a better record against high-danger chances (.778 over .756). Both of these veteran goaltenders are capable of winning the game for their team, and the difference could come down to which one of them comes out of the break hungry for a win.
Tonight’s matchup can be found on Bally Sports North and KFan 100.3FM beginning at 7:00 CT.
*Player statistics collected from Naturalstattrick.com, Jets lines from their last game on Dec. 23, and Wild lines from their last game on Dec. 21.
Being from the east coast of Canada, I’ve grown up immersed in hockey since before I was old enough to walk. The Minnesota Wild joined the league right as I was trying to find a favourite team and I have been committed to them ever since. I like to take breaks from my day job of writing reports as a Scientist by writing articles about my hockey passion. Follow me on twitter @tysmck15 for my latest.