Wild players have said that every game from here through the rest of the season will be a big game no matter who is on the other bench. That certainly rings true tonight.
Though tonight’s contest is a cross-conference matchup, as the Wild hosts the New York Rangers, two important points are on the line for both teams.
The Wild is looking to hold onto its Wild Card playoff spot and put some distance between itself and the rest of the pack — with Dallas and Phoenix pushing for spots as well.
And while the Rangers currently hold second place in their division, there’s a close race right behind them, simply itching for a postseason bid.
Tonight is the first night of a back-to-back for the Rangers as they take on Winnipeg tomorrow night. As such, New York Head Coach Alain Vigneault has already said netminder Cam Talbot will get the start tonight. Talbot has faced the Wild once, earning a win and a 1.00 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage.
Talbot’s one appearance against the Wild was Dec. 22, when Minnesota was in the middle of what would be a six-game losing streak. Jason Pominville netted the Wild’s lone goal in a 4-1 loss to New York, while Niklas Backstrom took the decision making 32 saves.
In net for the Wild will be Darcy Kuemper, who will get a chance to rebound from Tuesday’s loss. Head Coach Mike Yeo mentioned yesterday that the young netminder has shown he’s been able to brush off results, good or bad, with regularity and not let those results affect his focus for the next game.
Tuesday, the Wild fell in its second-straight shootout, this time 4-3 to the Oilers. Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon and Pominville each tallied a goal while Kuemper made 23 saves through 65 minutes. The netminder also allowed the first shootout goals of his career in the contest.
The Rangers are also coming off a loss Tuesday, as they fell, 3-1, to Carolina. Kevin Klein netted the Rangers lone goal while Henrik Lundqvist made 32 stops on the night.
Meet The Rangers
New York sits second in the Metropolitan Division with several teams biting at its heels. The Rangers sit just one point ahead of Columbus and Philadelphia in the standings, three ahead of New Jersey and four up on Washington.
The Rangers are led by Martin St. Louis 62 points this season, whom they acquired on Trade Deadline Day. St. Louis’ 29 goals also lead the team.
If You’re Going
Have you been collecting this season’s bobbleheads? Well tonight is your last chance to get one as the first 5,000 fans will receive a Zach Parise bobble.
Also, fans are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate at the game, benefitting Second Harvest Food Bank. The first 2,500 fans to make a donation will receive a commemorative Wild poster.
The Wild will wear its GREEN sweaters tonight.
Jason Pominville, Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund — or as I like to call them, the PPG line. The trio combined on two goals Tuesday each recording a multipoint game. Pominville has 12 points (6-6=12) in his last 13 games. Parise has 15 points (7-8=15) in his last 11. Meanwhile Granlund has 14 points (3-11=14) in his last 13 contests.
The forward lines will remain the same:
Clayton Stoner will return to the blue line:
Between The Pipes
Kuemper will make his first start against the Rangers tonight.
Yeo Quote Of The Day
There’s not time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. Those things happen from time to time. But you have to have the mentality at this time of the year, ‘We can’t let it happen any more.’
So what’s really important for us is to put it aside.
-Yeo on the Wild’s recent results
View From The Press Box
Honorary State Of Hockey Resident
Justin Falk was drafted by Minnesota in the fourth round (110th overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft and skated in 110 games with the Wild (2009-13). Dominic Moore skated in 40 games with Minnesota in parts of two seasons (2006-08). Benoit Pouliot was selected fourth overall by the Wild in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and appeared in 65 games with Minnesota (2006-09). Derek Stepan (Hastings) and Ryan McDonagh (St. Paul) are Minnesota natives. Rangers Hockey Consultant Doug Risebrough served as the Wild’s General Manager from 2000-09.
Minnesota has earned points in 13 of its last 16 games (9-3-4). Since Jan. 2, the Wild is 14-5-4 and its .926 save percentage ranks second only to the Rangers’ .928 save percentage, fourth in goals-against/game (2.17), fifth in win percentage (.696) and T-7th in points with the Rangers (32).
Wild vs. Rangers will be broadcast locally in high definition on FOX Sports North and FOX Sports Wisconsin 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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