On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the New Jersey Devils and Minnesota Wild will meet at Prudential Center. New Jersey will look to keep the momentum going after an impressive four-goal third period to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. The Wild will look to bounce back after being defeated by the Lightning in a shootout on Sunday.
Nov. 26, 2019. That was the last time that the Devils and Wild played a hockey game against one another. The Devils lost the game 3-2 and had goals from Jesper Boqvist and Kyle Palmieri. On the other side of the ice, Zach Parise, Jordan Greenway, and Ryan Suter scored for the Wild. Now, 729 days later, two teams who look very different than the last time they played will face-off again. Let’s take a look at storylines to look for ahead of the game!
2 Storylines: Minnesota Wild (11-6-1)
Captain Jared Spurgeon Deemed Week-to-Week
The Wild’s top defenseman and captain, Spurgeon, left during the second period of their game against the Florida Panthers on Sunday. Minnesota announced on Tuesday that he will be out on a week-to-week basis and will miss the game against New Jersey. According to NaturalStatTrick, he had the second-most ice time for the Wild behind Matt Dumba. Now, the team will look to fill his role with Jordie Benn. On Sunday, he played his first game for Minnesota in Tampa Bay and recorded an assist and 12:26 of ice time.
“Really liked how Jordie Benn played the game. Obviously, he had a really nice assist, but he played the game with a sense of urgency with that bite that we know he can play with. It was an asset for our hockey club.” Wild head coach Dean Evason said about Benn. “We’ve talked about our depth in all areas and the blue line is one of them. [Benn], in particular, has not got into games because guys have played well. It’s nice to have that depth in all areas of our game.” (from “Defensive depth will be key as Spurgeon deemed ‘week-to-week’ with injury,” Mnwildscribe, Dan Myers, 11/23/21)
Kiril Kaprizov Starting to Heat Up
After the 2021 Calder Memorial Trophy winner, Kirill Kaprizov failed to register a goal in his first eight games of the season, he has picked up his pace rapidly. He has collected seven points in his last three games and is starting to score more consistently. According to Dobber’s Frozen Tools, the 24-year-old winger leads all Wild forwards in ice time by a large margin. His production on the ice is crucial to the offensive performance of the team. If he can continue to stay hot, the Wild can start to string together wins.
The matchup on Wednesday will mark the first time that Kaprizov will face off against the Devils. For New Jersey to keep the winger at bay, they will have to play a strong and smart defensive game. His recent play will make the Devils’ jobs harder, but the Wild will also be dealing with a few injuries that could throw off the team’s chemistry. Nevertheless, the first meeting between Kaprizov and New Jersey will surely be entertaining.
2 Storylines: New Jersey Devils (8-5-3)
Chase De Leo Called Up, Alexander Holtz Sent to Utica
The Utica Comets are currently in the process of making history with their 13-0-0-0 start to the American Hockey League season. Their top scorer, De Leo, earned a call-up to the Devils. He could play in his first NHL game with the Devils while facing off against the Wild. He has played five career NHL games with the Winnipeg Jets and Anaheim Ducks. With him being called up, it meant the end of Holtz’s six-game stint in the NHL. He registered two assists in those six games. During the team’s Tuesday practice, De Leo was rotating on the fourth line with Mason Geersten.
In Utica, De Leo scored two goals and 12 assists for 14 points in eight games. If he were to play against the Wild, he would be placed on a line with Michael McLeod and Fabian Zetterlund. The 26-year-old forward will look to make an immediate impact for New Jersey. He will also have to transition to playing on the wing as his natural position in Utica was as a center. However, the line should provide energy and excitement for the Devils against the Wild.
Yegor Sharangovich Looking To Stay Hot
After an ice-cold start for Sharangovich, he had an impressive two goals and one assist in New Jersey’s 5-3 win over the Lightning. He was unable to score a goal in the first 13 games of the season. Furthermore, he did not register a point since the Devils’ Oct. 23 win against the Buffalo Sabres. For a player who exceeded expectations last season and scored game-changing goals, the Devils felt the loss of his production. If he can consistently start getting on the scoresheet, it will be a big relief for himself and the Devils.
After his three-point game against Tampa, Sharangovich should be able to capitalize on the confidence that comes from helping your team get a big win. He has been put in many positions to succeed, such as the power play and overtime ice time. Now it is up to him to continue producing for the team.
Players to Watch
Minnesota Wild: Jordie Benn
With Spurgeon out, Benn will most likely be put into a bigger role than he has seen with the Wild. The team’s defensive depth will be tested, and he should earn more ice time with the opportunity. He has only been able to play two games for the Wild this year and has recorded one assist in those games. Now, he will look to prove that he should be in the lineup every night.
New Jersey Devils: Fabian Zetterlund
Zetterlund will be playing in his third career NHL game against Minnesota. It will be his first time playing at Prudential center after going against Florida and Tampa bay in his first few games. In those games, he recorded 9:33 and 5:23 of ice time. He could produce offensively on the Devils’ fourth line as he gets more of a chance to play. If he is given an opportunity, he should be more noticeable in the matchup against the Wild.
Erica Rosenbaum is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers. She is currently attending Rutgers University and pursuing a Sports Management degree. She has run a Devils Instagram page since 2016 and previously wrote for AllNySports.