Wild Gameday Preview: Montreal Canadiens – 10/24/22

The Minnesota Wild are back in action tonight against the Montreal Canadiens in the first of the four games this week as part of their east coast trip that started with the Wild squeezing a point out of the Boston Bruins on Oct. 22, giving them points in consecutive contests after dropping the first three games to start the season. While the Canadiens might seem like an easier target than the Bruins, the winners of the 2022 draft lottery are off to a better start than most expected.

Related: Wild Can Build Upon Positive Momentum With 4 Games This Week

The Habs have picked up three wins this season, including a pair of upsets against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins. In stark contrast to the Wild, their goaltending duo of Jake Allen and Sam Montembeault has been surprisingly solid, producing a .913 combined save percentage, and their offense already has 14 players with points. Montreal has the potential to drop a Wild squad that’s still trying to find their footing.

Wild Projected Lineup

When things aren’t going right, sometimes you need to blow the lines up and hope that something clicks, which is exactly what the Wild have done heading into the Bell Centre tonight.

Kirill Kaprizov – Freddy Gaudreau – Mats Zuccarello
Marcus Foligno – Marco Rossi – Matt Boldy
Brandon Duhaime – Joel Eriksson Ek – Ryan Hartman
Tyson Jost – Sam Steel – Connor Dewar / Mason Shaw

Jacob Middleton – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Calen Addison
Alex Goligoski – Matt Dumba

Marc-Andre Fleury – Filip Gustavsson

With Jordan Greenway re-injured, the shutdown “GREEF” line has been completely dissolved after failing to produce much of anything this season. Foligno has been promoted to the Rossi and Boldy Line, while Eriksson Ek finds himself on a completely different physical line with Duhaime and Hartman. Regarding the ever-changing first-line center position, Gaudreau will get another opportunity to try and fit in with the crown jewel tandem of Kaprizov and Zuccarello.

Mats Zuccarello Minnesota Wild
Mats Zuccarello, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Failures in the Wild’s defensive end have been significant enough to cause some major changes on the blueline for tonight’s game. Calen Addison, the rookie points leader, has been promoted to the top four beside Brodin, whose regular partner, Dumba, has been dropped to the bottom pairing with Goligoski. These are much-needed changes, as there has been no consistency from any of the Wild’s defensemen this season, and Dumba may already have a foot out the door as a pending unrestricted free agent.

Canadiens Projected Lineup

Unfortunately, the 2022 first-overall pick, Juraj Slavkovsky, has been listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury and will not be in the lineup tonight. Fortunately, that means fans will get to see former Wild Rem Pitlick, who will likely fill his spot.

Cole Caufield – Nick Suzuki – Sean Monahan
Evgenii Dadonov – Christian Dvorak – Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Drouin – Kirby Dach – Josh Anderson
Rem Pitlick – Jake Evans – Mike Hoffman / Michael Pezzeta

Kaiden Guhle – David Savard
Johnathan Kovacevic – Jordan Harris
Arber Xhekaj – Chris Wideman

Jake Allen – Sam Montembeault

Make no mistake, the Canadiens are a much more dangerous team than they were 12 months ago, with a decent mix of veterans and rookie talent. The top line of Caufield, Monahan, and Suzuki has started to develop some chemistry, providing the team with a dangerous scoring threat, while a trio of young defensemen has stepped up to create an overall passable defense that will only get better with time as Guhle, Harris, and Xhekaj adjust to the NHL.

Key Players to Watch

Minnesota Wild – Calen Addison

Most Wild fans rolled into the 2022-23 season thinking that Rossi was going to be a rookie superstar, leading the team in points and making the biggest contributions. Instead, Addison has come alive and taken hold of the NHL rookie scoresheet. His addition to the first power-play unit has been vital to the Wild’s success, building it from the travesty it was in 2021-22 to second-best in the league, behind the Colorado Avalanche.

Calen Addison Minnesota Wild
Calen Addison, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Addison’s play has been so critical to the team that he has been bumped up to a top-four role after only six games. If he can work on the defensive side of his game and be a little more consistent in his own end, the Wild may have themselves a core defensive piece moving forward. Addison is a restricted free agent at the end of the 2022-23 season and is putting in the work early to make certain he gets the payday he deserves.

Montreal Canadiens – Kaiden Guhle

Everybody knew that Guhle was going to be an NHL player; he had a high floor and was expected to play a significant role on defense, but I’m not sure anyone expected him to come into the NHL and look so comfortable. After only six games, he is already on the top pair, playing upwards of 21 minutes a night against some of the league’s best players.

Wild fans will get a first-hand look at how well the 6-foot-2 mobile defenseman plays against star talent, as he will likely be tasked with shutting down Kaprizov and Zuccarello tonight. His strong skating skills help him excel in covering a lot of ice, which will be needed against a line that moves that puck as well as the Wild’s top line.

Tonight’s game will be aired on Bally Sports North, TSN2, and RDS (French) starting at 6:00 PM CT as the Wild try to continue their points streak and breathe some life back into their season.

*Player statistics collected from Naturalstattrick.comMontreal Canadiens lines from @StuCowan1 on TwitterMinnesota Wild lines from @Russohockey on Twitter

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