Minnesota Wild Gameday Preview: New York Islanders – 1/12/2023

The Minnesota Wild had a tough game against the New York Rangers on Jan.10, getting out-played for most of the game but somehow managed to collect a point in a shootout loss. Hopefully, they’ve refocused and are reinvigorated heading into the final game to complete the first half of the 2022-23 season tonight against the New York Islanders. The Islanders might be sixth in the Metropolitan Division, but they have just one point less than the Wild, albeit with two more games played. Both teams enter tonight’s event on three-game losing streaks, but only one will be broken.

Minnesota Wild Gameday Preview Kirill Kaprizov, Matthew Boldy, Jared Spurgeon, and Marc-Andre Fleury
Kirill Kaprizov, Matthew Boldy, Jared Spurgeon, and Marc-Andre Fleury (The Hockey Writers)

This is the first of two meetings between the Wild and the Islanders this season, but make no mistake, the Islanders are having a much stronger showing than last season. Matthew Barzal leads the team as a point-per-game player, with 30 assists in 41 games. Their defense has been working by committee, with five players averaging between 20 and 21 minutes a night. If that wasn’t enough, in net they have an elite Russian tandem of Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov, who have collectively put up a 2.69 goals-against average (GAA) and a .922 save percentage (SV%).

Wild Projected Lineup

Kirill Kaprizov – Sam Steel – Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway – Joel Eriksson Ek – Marcus Foligno
Matt Boldy – Frederick Gaudreau – Ryan Hartman
Brandon Duhaime – Connor Dewar – Ryan Reeves

Jake Middleton – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill – Calen Addison

Filip Gustavsson – Marc-Andre Fleury

Islanders Projected Lineup

Anders Lee – Mathew Barzal – Simon Holmstrom
Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Josh Bailey
Zach Parise – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Hudson Fasching
Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck

Sebastian Aho – Noah Dobson
Parker Wotherspoon – Ryan Pulock
Alexander Romanov – Scott Mayfield

Ilya Sorokin – Semyon Varlamov

3 Keys to the Game

Bring the Defense Back

There was a point this season – not long ago – when the Wild were playing some of the best defensive hockey in the league. Not only were they controlling the play, outshooting opponents, and dominating the neutral zone, but they were also utilizing every player on the ice to limit high-danger chances and convert them into an offensive attack.

Matt Dumba Minnesota Wild
Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Against the Rangers on Jan.10, the Wild’s defense did none of those things. They finished with a 35.25 Corsi-for percentage, a 42.67 shots-for percentage, and an abysmal 34.7 expected-goals-for percentage. In other words, they got the snot beat out of them, and a fantastic performance by Fleury is the only reason they got a point. If they plan on making the playoffs, they need to find constancy in their play, especially on defense.

Special Teams Need Less Use

It’s been a theme for a couple of seasons: the Wild take too many penalties. While they are known as a tough, hard-playing team, and that heavy style of play will naturally lend itself to penalties, they have to be more aware of the game situation and play a little more conservatively at times.

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With their penalty kill ranked among the league average and their road power-play percentage in the bottom five, they are not going to win many special-teams battles. Constant trips to the penalty box from both teams force some players to play heavy minutes while others hardly see any ice time, leading to an imbalance that has not (and will not) worked out for the Wild.

Be Willing to Try Different Line Combinations

When things are going well, there is usually no reason to alter anything; however, the Wild have lost three in a row, and it seems they only make changes to the lines due to injuries or illness. The top line is producing, and the “GREEF” line (Greenway, Eriksson Ek, and Foligno) is doing their job at shutting down opponents, but obviously, things could be better, or they would be winning more games. The organization seems opposed to trying new lines, but maybe dropping Steel down to play with Gaudreau and Boldy would ignite that line, and maybe Duhaime, Hartman, and Boldy could be a gritty, tough scoring line. The only way to find out is to try, and the best time to try is when things aren’t going well.

Tonight’s matchup can be found on Bally Sports North and KFan 100.3FM beginning at 6:30 CT.

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*Player statistics collected from Naturalstattrick.com, Wild lines from @RussoHockey on Twitter, and Islanders lines from Andrew Gross via dailyfaceoff.com