After finally putting together a four-game win streak in the 2022-23 season, the Minnesota Wild have flipped back to a losing streak after dropping their latest games against the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, allowing five goals against in both games. The latest loss has dropped the Wild to fourth in the Central Division as the Colorado Avalanche claim third with the same number of points, but in fewer games played. The playoff race is shaping up to be a battle to the end, and the Wild will have to step it up if they want to play some post-season hockey.
They will have no time to stress over their latest loss as they are back in action tonight against the recovering Vancouver Canucks. While the Canucks started the season in record-breakingly bad fashion, including an overtime loss to the Wild on Oct. 20, they have been experiencing surges of strong play that have given their season some hope of recovering. They have won eight of their last 11 games and are currently on a three-game winning streak, all of which came from overtime thrillers.
Wild Projected Lineup
Kirill Kaprizov – Sam Steel – Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway – Joel Eriksson Ek – Marcus Foligno
Sammy Walker – Frederick Gaudreau – Matt Boldy
Mason Shaw – Connor Dewar – Ryan Reeves
Jacob Middleton – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Alex Goligoski – Jon Merrill
Filip Gustavsson – Marc-Andre Fleury
Related: 10 Wild Prospects You Need to Watch in 2022-23
Latest News & Highlights
Canucks Projected Lineup
Nils Hoglander – Bo Horvat – J.T. Miller
Ilya Mikheyev – Elias Pettersson – Brock Boeser
Andrei Kuzmenko – Jack Studnicka – Connor Garland
Nils Aman – Curtis Lazar – Dakota Joshua
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Ethan Bear
Quinn Hughes – Luke Schenn
Riley Stillman – Tyler Myers
Spencer Martin – Colin Delia
3 Keys to the Game
End the Losing Streak Early
The Wild headed to Western Canada on a four-game win streak that had them playing some of the best hockey they had produced in the 2022-23 season. A short memory and forgetting Alberta happened is going to be key in ending this losing streak before it grows any more. The Canucks are a team that has been floundering for the entire season, presenting a perfect opportunity to get back to the type of game they want to play and get back in the win column before heading back to St. Paul for a four-game homestand that includes two teams in the bottom five of the NHL.
Gustavsson Stays Solid
With Fleury starting against the Oilers, it is assumed that Filip Gustavsson will step in tonight to cover the back-to-back games. The Wild’s backup has been a solid option in his nine games played so far this season with a .909 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.75 goals-against average (GAA); however, he has been especially good lately by collecting wins in his last three games. In two of those games, he allowed just a single goal against and had a SV% over .950.
While the one-for-one trade that brought Gustavsson to the Wild in the offseason has been heavily criticized, it currently looks like the 24-year-old could be starting to live up to the potential the Pittsburgh Penguins saw in him when they drafted him in the second round of the 2016 Entry Draft. His game is not complete and there are some consistency issues, but there is no question that he is a better goalie than most gave him credit for.
Sammy Walker Debut
A couple of bad games from the Wild and a lack of production from the third line have given Sammy Walker a shot at the NHL. Walker signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Wild in August and has been quietly collecting over a point per game in the American Hockey League with the Iowa Wild. The right-shot forward from Edina, Minnesota, is likely going to be replacing Nic Petan on Boldy’s opposite wing with Gaudreau retaining the center position. That line has been struggling to produce lately and Walker’s introduction could provide the spark needed to get it going again.
Tonight’s late-night matchup can be found on Bally Sports North and KFAN 100.3 FM starting at 9:00 PM CT.
*Player statistics collected from Naturalstattrick.com, Vancouver Canucks lines from their last game on Dec. 7, and Minnesota Wild lines from their last game and updates from @JoeSmithNHL on Twitter.