The All-Star break is over, and the Minnesota Wild, who have been inactive since Jan.29, are finally back in action as they take on the Arizona Coyotes. Before the break, the Wild managed to snap a three-game skid and will carry a two-game winning streak into tonight’s game after defeating the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime and the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout. With the Colorado Avalanche (inactive tonight) just one point behind the Wild in the battle for third in the Central Division, they will be hoping to continue their winning ways as the trade deadline looms large and the playoffs (hopefully) are on the horizon.
The Coyotes are in a different race than the Wild. Instead of hoping for a deep playoff run, they are hoping they can get the coveted first overall pick in the upcoming entry draft to add Connor Bedard as the crown jewel to their roster of young prospects. The Coyotes’ players still want to win hockey games, but roster moves such as sending rookie Dylan Guenther to the Western Hockey League (WHL) show that management is currently more interested in development than they are in the number of wins.
Wild Projected Lineup
Kirill Kaprizov – Sam Steel – Mats Zuccarello
Matt Boldy – Frederick Gaudreau – Marcus Foligno
Jordan Greenway – Joel Eriksson Ek – Ryan Hartman
Brandon Duhaime – Connor Dewar – Ryan Reeves
Jake Middleton – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill – Calen Addison
Marc-Andre Fleury – Filip Gustavsson
Coyotes Projected Lineup
Clayton Keller – Barrett Hayton – Nick Schmaltz
Lawson Crouse – Nick Bjugstad – Matias Maccelli
Nick Ritchie – Travis Boyd – Christian Fischer
Jean-Sebastien Dea – Jack McBain – Zack Kassian
Jakob Chychrun – Juuso Valimaki
Josh Brown – Troy Stecher
Patrik Nemeth – J.J. Moser
Karel Vejmelka – Connor Ingram
3 Keys to the Game
Vacation is Over
There’s no doubt everyone loves a good vacation, and according to a tweet from the Athletic’s Michael Russo, the Wild are no exception, as Brandon Duhaime confirmed 16 players went on a trip together over the break. The Wild have a reputation for being a rather close-knit group, so it comes as no surprise they would want to spend time together away from the rink, but hopefully, they didn’t indulge themselves too much.
Related: Wild By the Numbers: Midseason Report
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While the group vacation was no doubt good for improving morale, it will be interesting to see if any players are a little “off” tonight as they will have been without their usual routine for a significant amount of time. It is also possible we see some players step their game up as the chance to rest may have helped to recover any nagging injuries from the first 48 games of the season.
Boldy Brings it Back
There was a large portion of January where Boldy seemed unable to produce anything, as he had a six-game pointless streak and an 11-game goalless streak. His shiny new contract must have helped settle his thoughts because he had four goals and seven points in the five games before the break, including a three-point performance against the Flyers on Jan. 26. With Boldy producing on the second line, the Wild move to a completely different level of dangerous as opponents are forced to make tough decisions when matching lines.
Kaprizov Continues Dominance
While it is no surprise that Kaprizov leads the Wild in goals, assists, and points; the consistency he has found this season has been amazing. In 48 games this season, there have never been more than two games in a row where he didn’t register a point, and out of the 10 games in January he had points in eight, including three multi-point nights. His incredible play is continued against the Coyotes as in the 13 times he has faced them, he has amassed 19 points, including four points (one goal and three assists) in their two matches so far this season.
Tonight’s matchup can be found on Bally Sports North and KFan 100.3FM beginning at 8:00 CT.
*Player statistics collected from Naturalstattrick.com, Wild lines from @RussoHockey, and Coyotes lines from www.dailyfaceoff.com projections.