Minnesota Wild Gameday Preview: Buffalo Sabres – 01/28/2023

The Minnesota Wild will take on the Buffalo Sabres tonight as the main event for Hockey Day in Minnesota. The Wild ended their three-game losing skid by punching their way to an overtime win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 26. That win, combined with a series of fortunate outcomes in other games, was enough to bring the Wild back into third place in the Central Division; however, the Colorado Avalanche are only one point behind them and the Nashville Predators are now only two points back. It is looking like Central could end up being a dogfight to the very end.

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 Buffalo Sabres are on the edge of breaking out of the “rebuilding team” title as their current five-game win streak has them well within the playoff conversation, possibly being buyers at the trade deadline. They are no longer an easy team to beat as they have one of the most explosive offenses in the NHL; in fact, they have accumulated the exact same number of wins (26) as the Wild so far this season. The Sabres took the first meeting between the teams in a 6-5 overtime thriller earlier this month (Jan. 7), and would no doubt love to play the villain again tonight on Hockey Day in Minnesota.

Latest News & Highlights

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

Sabres Projected Lineup

Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch
JJ Peterka – Dylan Cozens – Jack Quinn
Casey Mittelstadt – Tyson Jost – Victor Olofsson
Zemgus Girgensons – Peyton Krebs – Kyle Okposo

Rasmus Dahlin – Kale Clague
Owen Power – Henri Jokiharju
Jacob Bryson – Ilya Lyubushkin

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen – Eric Comrie

3 Keys to the Game

Fleury Stays Hot

For the first time in almost two months, the Wild’s starting goalie is going to get three games in a row. The veteran has been outstanding his last two contests even if one of them was a loss. Marc-Andre Fleury’s .926 save percentage (SV%) and 2.50 goals-against average (GAA) are solid, but do not come close to representing just how well he has been playing. Fleury’s ability to make big, flashy saves at key moments in a game is next level, and can help to shift momentum in the Wild’s favor. He is going to have to lay it all out tonight as the Sabres have the most goals in the NHL so far this season with 182.

Give the New Lines a Chance

Something that a lot of fans have been calling for is a change in the lines and it has finally happened. After sitting out the last game, Ryan Hartman will re-enter the lineup, taking Foligno’s spot with Greenway and Eriksson Ek, while Foligno moves up with Boldy and Gaudreau. Sometimes a small change is all that is needed to wake the players up and get them rolling again, but it can take a little time for them to adjust. Head coach Dean Evason is not known for his propensity to alter lines and instead likes to let the players work it out themselves, but now that he has made a change it would be a mistake to revert back without truly giving these new lines a chance.

Use Hockey Day’s Momentum

All across the State of Minnesota fans will be celebrating the fantastic sport of hockey for the entire day, and in just about every way possible. The Wild are the pinnacle of hockey in Minnesota and after a full day of celebration, all eyes will turn to the Wild in hopes of a victory to finish the day off on a positive note. In the game against the Flyers, they manufactured their own energy via an almost unheard-of three fights in under 20 seconds, but tonight the fans will manufacture it for them; all they need to do is embrace that energy, feel the day, and use it on the ice.

Related: Wild By the Numbers: Midseason Report

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 @Jessi_pierce on Twitter, and Sabres lines from their last game on Jan. 26.

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