The Minnesota Wild will kick off a seven-game homestand with the first showing of their new reverse retro jerseys of the season. With a poor record at home (2-4-1), they will no doubt be hoping that a change in color brings a change in fortune. The Wild host the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight without the services of their starting goaltender and long-time Penguin Marc-Andre Fleury, who was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury after the Nov.15 loss to the Nashville Predators.
The Penguins will be trying to halt their two-game losing streak after posting a seven-game losing streak earlier this season already. With a 6-7-3 record, they find themselves near the bottom of a tough Metropolitan Division, struggling to find a foothold despite having four point-per-game players in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jason Zucker, and Jake Guentzel.
Wild Projected Lineup
Kirill Kaprizov – Freddy Gaudreau – Mats Zuccarello
Mason Shaw – Connor Dewar – Matt Boldy
Brandon Duhaime – Joel Eriksson Ek – Marcus Foligno
Sam Steel – Marco Rossi – Tyson Jost
Jacob Middleton – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill – Calen Addison
Filip Gustavsson – Zane McIntyre
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Rotating lines on a per-game basis continues as Dewar and Shaw will bring their chemistry up to the second line with Boldy, and a still goalless Rossi has fallen back down to the fourth line. Jost will finally make his way out of the press box and onto Rossi’s wing in what feels like his last opportunity to prove he deserves to be on the Wild roster.
Penguins Projected Lineup
Jake Guentzel – Sidney Crosby – Rickard Rakell
Jason Zucker – Evgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust
Brock McGinn – Jeff Carter – Danton Heinen
Ryan Poehling – Tedddy Blueger – Josh Achibald
Marcus Petterson – Kris Letang
Brian Dumoulin – Jeff Petry
Chad Ruhwedel – Jan Rutta
Tristan Jarry – Casey DeSmith
3 Keys to the Game
Gustavsson Needs to Step Up
With their starting goaltender out of the lineup for at least a week, Gustavsson will have to lead the way despite only playing five games this season. Although his first couple of games with Minnesota were not awe-inspiring, he has been solid in his last three games despite going 1-1-1 with a .947 save percentage, a .920 high-danger save percentage, and a 1.64 goals-against average.
Offensive Production Increase
In the 2021-22 season, the Wild were one of the most offensively gifted teams in the NHL, and despite only a few changes in the offseason, they are now among the bottom four teams in the league with only 23 goals scored at five-on-five and just eight total goals in their last six games. Even with Kaprizov and Zuccarello producing at a point-per-game pace, the rest of the team’s offensive production is missing.
However, the constant line changes have led to a noticeable amount of missed opportunities as players are unfamiliar with the niche aspects of their linemates’ style. The Wild suffers multiple turnovers or bad transitional play each game, caused by players attempting passes to teammates who either aren’t there or are not expecting to receive the puck. Hopefully, the latest changes will provide an offensive spark and enough chemistry to warrant fewer adjustments moving forward.
Depth Players on the Edge
A few names on the Wild’s roster were expected to have big seasons and have yet to produce much of anything. Players like Jost and Steel showed their skills in the preseason but have failed to contribute in the regular season. If the team wants to start winning games, they will need their depth players to take a page out of Shaw’s book and play their hearts out on every shift. Otherwise, there may be some trades coming to acquire players capable of doing just that.
Tonight’s match-up can be found on Bally Sports North and KFAN 100.3 FM starting at 7:00 PM CT.
Being from the east coast of Canada, I’ve grown up immersed in hockey since before I was old enough to walk. The Minnesota Wild joined the league right as I was trying to find a favourite team and I have been committed to them ever since. I like to take breaks from my day job of writing reports as a Scientist by writing articles about my hockey passion. Follow me on twitter @tysmck15 for my latest.