It’s always an interesting affair when the neighbors to the north – the Winnipeg Jets – come to town to face the Minnesota Wild. First of all, it can be hard to tell who the home team is at Xcel Energy Center since Winnipeg fans travel so well.
This time though, the home-ice-happy Wild (23-17-4) are in fifth place in the Central Division and will take on the division-leading Jets (26-12-7). The Wild are 9-5-3 at home and 17-13-5 overall all-time against the Jets.
The Wild will look to avoid going 0-4 against the Jets this season as they prepare for their final meeting in the 2017-18 campaign. After a pair of one-goal losses on the road and at home, the Wild were blown out 7-2 in Winnipeg in late November. It was one of the worst losses of the season for the Wild, and they also lost another game 7-2 at Colorado a week ago.
Meanwhile, the Jets have won three of their past four games, fresh off a 2-1 loss in Chicago on Friday night.
However, the Wild are back on home ice which has been a source of comfort.
They’re 11-1-2 at home since Nov. 14 and 4-0-1 while outscoring opponents 21-20 in those games since the holiday break. This game marks the start of another back-to-back series for the Wild; they’re 2-4-1 on the first night.
The Wild have gotten plenty of production from their blue-liners this season. Their defenders have scored a combined 100 points in 44 games. Ryan Suter leads the way with 28 points and has four points in the past three games. Three of the last four goals the Wild have scored over the past two games have come off defensemen sticks.
While those numbers are encouraging, the productions from some of the Wild forwards could stand to be improved. Zach Parise has just one assist and no goals in five games back after sitting out most of the season so far after back surgery. Mikko Koivu has just six goals and 17 assists this season. Koivu has just two goals in the past 35 games.
Jason Zucker (15-16—31) has seemed a bit snakebitten lately. He’s riding a seven-game goal drought and has just one goal in his past 16 games. Mikael Granlund has passed Zucker for second in overall points on the team roster. Granlund has 12 goals and 21 assists this season.
Charlie Coyle has no points over the past three games after scoring goals in back-to-back games against Florida and Buffalo, which snapped a 12-game goal-less drought for him. The 6-foot-3, 221 pound center has just four goals and 13 assists this season.
The game against the Jets will mark No. 200 with Minnesota for goaltender Devan Dubnyk (16-9-2).
As for special teams, the Jets have the second-best power play in the NHL (41-for-163, 25.2 percent), though it ranks just 15th on the road. The Wild’s home penalty kill is still the best in the league, allowing just five goals to opponents on 69 chances. The Wild’s power play has slipped to 18th in the NHL with just 25 goals on 136 opportunities.
Defenseman and Roseau native Dustin Byfuglien has two goals and 15 assists this season. He also leads the Jets with 31 points (8-23—31) in 38 games against the Wild. Kyle Connor and former Gophers player Blake Wheeler have each scored a pair of goals and three assists in the three games facing the Wild this season. Wheeler leads the Jets overall in points with 52 this season.
Jets top-goalie Connor Hellebuyck started Friday night, so look for either Michael Hutchinson or Steve Mason in between the pipes Saturday.
Nino Niederreiter (lower body), 2 games
Total man games lost: 96
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