Tonight the Minnesota Wild returns to action after the National Hockey League’s mandatory holiday break and State of Hockey fans hope Santa brings the team some post-Christmas wins.
The Wild hit a much needed reset button with the three-day break, which teams were not allowed to practice. Heading into the break, the Wild hit a rocky stretch and, often, time away from the rink can be the best medicine.
Minnesota is back at it tonight looking to break its recent road hex against Central Division rival, the Winnipeg Jets. The Wild has had the Jets number this season, winning all three meetings, the most recent a 3-2 comeback shootout win at MTS Centre on Nov. 23. The club is 4-2-1 all-time in Winnipeg.
Things won’t get easier for the team’s recent road woes, as it will be without forward leading scorer, Zach Parise, and defenseman Clayton Stoner — who was placed on Injured Reserve this evening — as they didn't travel with the team. Parise, who is tied for the team lead in points with Mikko Koivu (15-12=27), is out with a lower-body injury; he missed the team’s last game in Philadelphia. Stoner missed the last game as well with a lower-body injury.
With Parise out, the team recalled forward Stephane Veilleux today.
Goaltender Josh Harding is on trip after missing the last three games as he adjusted to a change in protocol for treatment of multiple sclerosis. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said the netminder looked really good today in practice but it is believed Niklas Backstrom will get the nod in net tonight, though Yeo never confirmed. Johan Gustafsson is also on the trip.
In its last outing on Dec. 23, Minnesota dropped a 4-1 contest to the Flyers in Philadelphia. Center Mikael Granlund scored his first-career power play goal for the team’s only tally. Backstrom made 27 saves in the losing effort.
The Jets had a disappointing loss before the break, drilled by the Oilers, 6-2. The Jets were in the game, but the Oilers scored four-straight goals, including three in the third, to blow the game open. Mark Stuart and Andrew Ladd scored for Winnipeg. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec made 24 saves in the loss.
Meet the Jets
The Jets have had an inconsistent season, thus far. The team has one winning streak of longer than two games this season, and the lack of consistency has hurt them in the standings. Winnipeg has 36 points is eight points out of the final playoff spot.
Winnipeg forward Evander Kane has been hot of late, scoring three goals and five points in five games for the Jets.
If You’re Going
MTS Centre isn’t the largest rink in the NHL, but it certainly is one of the loudest. The team’s battle cry, “Go, Jets Go!” rings out throughout the game and the game day staff isn’t afraid to bump the tunes to 11.
Ryan Suter holds a career-best seven-game assist streak (7), surpassing his six-game run (7) with Nashville Dec. 11-22, 2010, and one game shy of his career-best eight-game point streak March 3-18, 2009. His current stretch is the longest assist streak by a Wild defenseman in franchise history. His 22 assists this season lead the Wild and rank T-4th amongst all NHL defensemen.
Probable Wild Lineup
With Parise out of the lineup, the team will need to step up offensively:
Nate Prosser will play in his second-straight game with Stoner out:
Between the Pipes
We should know the starting goaltender after morning skate. Backstrom is 2-3-2 with a 2.64 GAA and a .906 SV% in seven starts against the Jets. Harding is 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and a .946 SV% in two career starts.
Yeo Quote of the Day
We threw a couple extra drills in there to try to get rid of some of the sloppiness. You could see early, we weren’t passing a lot of flat pucks. But as practice wore on, we started to work out some of the kinks.
-Yeo on practicing after three days off, reported by the Star Tribune
View From the Press Box
Parise and Stoner, who was placed on IR today, are out with injuries.
Right now, it appears either Harding or Gustafsson will be the healthy scratch.
Honorary State of Hockey Resident
LW 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). D Mark Stuart is from Rochester. RW Blake Wheeler hails from Robbinsdale and went to the University of Minnesota (2005-08).
The Wild finishes a stretch where seven-of-eight games are away from Saint Paul (Dec. 11-27), having posted a 6-11-3 record on the road this season.
Wild at Winnipeg will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North with a start time at 7 p.m. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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