It’s been awhile, but Sunday night the Wild return to conference play with, who else, but budding rival Winnipeg.
The Wild cap a three-game home series with the Jets. Minnesota is 9-1-2 at Xcel Energy Center this season and is currently riding a five-game win streak on home ice. That record has been buoyed by the strong play of Josh Harding in net.
The netminder is 9-0-0 this season in St. Paul, and leads the NHL with a .945 save percentage and 1.26 goals against average. Along with his solid play at home, Harding has led the Wild to a 6-0-1 record in its last seven games for a season-best point streak. While Harding has helped the Wild’s success, a stingy defense has undoubtedly contributed as the Wild have allowed the fewest shots per game in the NHL at 24.6.
The last time the Wild faced the Jets — also in St. Paul — Minnesota edged out Winnipeg 2-1 for its first win of the season. The Wild pelted Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec with 30 shots, while Harding faced only 15, making 14 saves.
The Wild also set a franchise record in the faceoff circle during the tilt. The team went 45-for-61, 73.8 percent, at the faceoff dot for the highest single-game percentage in franchise history.
Heading into Suday, the Wild are coming off what it calls an important lesson. Friday night, the Wild jumped out to an early 2-0 lead over the Panthers before allowing the Florida team to tie things up with a pair of goals in the third after getting a little complacent, according to Charlie Coyle. Coyle netted the game-winner to lift the Wild over the Panthers 3-2, while Harding made 22 saves.
Meanwhile Winnipeg comes into town riding a season-best point streak of its own. The Jets last saw action Friday, earning a 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers in Winnipeg. The win marked the Jets third-straight shootout win and fourth win overall. The Jets came from behind to tie the game with less than five minutes remaining as Dustin Byfuglien netted his second goal of the night. Pavelec made 32 saves in the outing.
MEET THE PLANES
The Jets are working on a four game win streak and three-straight shootout wins. Though head coach Claude Noel has rolled the same lineup during the streak, the Jets lost defenseman Zach Bogosian Friday to a lower-body injury.
Winnipeg is led by centerman Bryan Little who has a team-leading 11 goals on the season and 18 points (11-7=18). He scored the Jets' lone goal the last time the team played in St. Paul.
IF YOU'RE GOING
With only a seven hour car ride between St. Paul and Winnipeg it's a safe bet plenty of Jets fans will be in attendance once again. Last time they made themselves heard with chants of "Go Jets Go!" Instead of booing, drown them out with "Go Wild!" It sounds more encouraging from the ice.
The Wild will wear its GREEN sweaters tonight.
While there's a few guys to pick from, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville have been duking it out lately. Parise has eight points in the last seven games and leads the Wild with 17 points this season. Meanwhile Pominville picked up a goal and an assist Friday night for his fourth multi-point game of the season. He has 13 points in his last 11 games and trails Parise with 16 points this season.
The Wild lines remain the same as Friday:
Matt Dumba will step in on the blue line:
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Josh Harding has been one of the best netminders in the NHL this season. Harding is 11-2-2 and is 8-0-2 in his last ten games. He ranks first in the League with a 1.26 goals-against average and second with a .945 save percentage.
YEO QUOTE OF THE DAY
He's played well against these guys. We just want to see him continue to evovle and continue to grow. He's in here for a reason. I want to see his strengths come out in the game.
-Yeo on Dumba playing tonight
VIEW FROM THE PRESSBOX
Nate Prosser will be the lone healthy scratch.
HONORARY STATE OF HOCKEY RESIDENT
Devin Setoguchi collected 63 points (32-31=63) in 117 games with Minnesota (2011-13). He was traded to Winnipeg for a 2014 second-round pick (7/5/13). Mark Stuart is from Rochester. Blake Wheeler hails from Robbinsdale and went to the University of Minnesota (2005-08).
The Wild has a 9-1-2 record at home this season, with five-straight wins at Xcel Energy Center with nine wins in its last ten games. No NHL team has more wins or points on home ice than the Wild this season.
Wild vs. Winnipeg will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North with a start time at 7:00 p.m. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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