It’s felt like a long time coming but never fear; Wild hockey is back at Xcel Energy Center.
While the Wild started its final stretch run of the regular season last Thursday in Edmonton, the team finally returns home for the first time in a month after a few weeks off for the Olympics.
Since the restart, the Wild has won two straight and looks to continue that trend tonight against the Flames. Minnesota has found a winning formula without Captain Mikko Koivu and defenseman Marco Scandella, but both are expected to make their return to the lineup tonight.
Darcy Kuemper will get the nod in cage again tonight. It will mark his 15th straight start and 16th start since joining the Wild at the beginning of the calendar year. Since Jan. 7, the 23-year-old is 10-2-2 with a 1.94 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. He has also registered two shutouts in that stretch.
One of Kuemper’s starts in his current streak was against the Flames, Feb. 1. The Wild earned a point in the 4-3 overtime loss. Matt Cooke, Dany Heatley and Keith Ballard each tallied goals while Kuemper made 28 saves in the contest. The Flames were led by a pair of goals from Mikael Backlund, who scored a short-handed goal in regulation and the overtime winner.
The overtime loss started a streak of five games in which the Wild earned at least a point, winning its last four straight. Tonight will mark the third and final meeting of the season with Flames. The Wild took the first meeting, 5-1, on Nov. 5 in Saint Paul.
Friday night, the Wild wrapped up a two-game road trip on back-to-back nights with a shootout win over Vancouver, 2-1. Kuemper made 30 stops in the contest before blanking the Canucks through a seven-round shootout. Zach Parise tallied the Wild’s regulation goal while Justin Fontaine netted his first NHL shootout attempt for the extra point. The win marked the first time this season the Wild swept back-to-back games.
The Flames are coming off a 2-1 overtime win Saturday against Edmonton. Sean Monahan netted both the OT game-winner and the Flames’ lone regulation goal. Netminder Reto Berra made 21 saves on the night.
Meet The Flames
In 13th place in the Western Conference, 13 points out of the playoff picture, the Flames are most likely sellers with the Trade Deadline fast approaching on Wednesday and ready to play spoiler.
Calgary is led by Jiri Hudler’s 43 points this season, on 14 goals and 29 assists. Monahan is the leading goal-scorer with 18.
If You’re Going
Tonight is Military Appreciation Night. The Wild will pay tribute to Minnesota military members and their families throughout the game. There will also be autographed camouflage jerseys from Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jason Pominville and Mikael Granlund up for auction near section 104. Proceeds from the auction benefit Defending the Blue Line.
The Wild will wear its RED sweaters tonight.
The penalty killers. The whole unit deserves the nod as the Wild has killed off 18 power play chances over its last six games. The unit has allowed only one power-play goal in its last nine games for a 95.8 percent success rate in that span.
Koivu will step back into the lineup, centering Heatley and Coyle:
Scandella will return to the blue line:
Between The Pipes
Kuemper is 0-0-1 against Calgary with a 3.86 goals-against average and a .875 save percentage in one career start.
Yeo Quote Of The Day
View From The Press Box
Defenseman Clayton Stoner and two forwards will be healthy scratches tonight.
Honorary State Of Hockey Resident
Mikael Granlund’s younger brother, Markus, is a forward for the Flames.
The Wild has won five straight games in regulation on home ice, its longest streak since earning six straight regulation wins at Xcel Energy Center to finish the 2007-08 season. Minnesota is 21-7-2 at Xcel Energy Center this season, winning 17 of its last 23 games and 21 of its last 28 contests on home ice.
Wild vs. Calgary 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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