Minnesota Wild Gameday Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning – 01/04/2023

They had to wait a little longer than most, but the Minnesota Wild will finally play their first game of 2023 against the consistently amazing Tampa Bay Lightning. The Wild are 8-2 in their last 10 games and are coming off of a solid win against their Central Division rival St. Louis Blues on New Year’s Eve. Tonight’s contest will be a battle of the well-rested Wild, who have had three days off, against a tired Lightning squad on the second game of a back-to-back.

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)

The Lightning will thunder their way into tonight’s game on a four-game win streak, and their confidence will be sky-high with nine victories in their last 11 games. Their 49 points in 36 games are good for seventh in the overall standings and fourth in points percentage (.681).

Wild Projected Lineup

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

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

Filip Gustavsson – Marc Andre Fleury

Lightning Projected Lineup

Brandon Hagel – Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Anthony Cirelli – Steven Stamkos – Alex Killorn
Ross Colton – Nick Paul – Patrick Maroon
Vladislav Namestikov – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Corey Perry

Victor Hedman – Zach Bogosian
Mikhail Sergachev – Nicklaus Perbix
Ian Cole – Erik Cernak

Andrei Vasilevskiy – Brain Elliot

3 Keys to the Game

Get in the Groove Quickly

The Wild had three full days of rest since their last game on Dec.31. In stark contrast, the Lightning destroyed the Chicago Blackhawks just yesterday. The Wild will have to be ready for a strong start from the Bolts as Hedman, Point, Stamkos, Kucherov, and Brandon Hagel will try to catch them flat-footed and out of sync. The Lightning are no strangers to playing a lot of hockey with multiple deep Stanley Cup runs (and victories), so there is no reason to assume they will be any less potent than usual.

Related: 5 Wild Prospects to Watch at the 2023 World Juniors

Secondary Scoring

The Wild’s top line has been lethal since the introduction of Sam Steel, and the “GREEF” line of Greenway, Eriksson Ek, and Foligno is one of the best in the NHL at shutting down the opponent’s best scorers when they are all healthy. However, their secondary scoring has been lackluster.

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With Hartman finally healthy again and starting to regain some of his scoring prowess, his addition to Boldy and Gaudreau’s line could spark that line back to life. Hartman is known for his grit and his finishing ability. If he can stay out of the penalty box, he has the potential to reignite the star power in Boldy.

Dumba and Brodin Stay Strong

There is no avoiding putting Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin together. They have undeniable chemistry, and when they are rolling, they can be an unstoppable duo. On the other hand, there have been more than a couple of games this season when both players have been off of their game and were easily the worst defensive pair on the ice. They were fantastic on Dec.31 and will have to be at their best again tonight if the Wild have any chance of slowing down the plethora of talent that lines the Lightning’s roster.

Tonight’s matchup can be found on TNT and KFan 100.3FM beginning at 8:30 CT.

*Player statistics collected from Naturalstattrick.com, Lightning lines from their last game on Jan. 3, and Wild lines from @Jessi_Pierce on Twitter 

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