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  • 2/22 PREGAME: Minnesota Wild vs. New Jersey Devils

    Heather Rule

    The hockey focus this week has been on Team USA in the Olympics, especially with the women’s team -- full of Minnesotans -- beating Canada in a shootout for the gold medal less than 24 hours ago. The men’s team saw their Olympic run end in a shootout earlier this week.


    Still, there is NHL hockey being played.


    The Minnesota Wild (32-20-7) play their second of three games on their New York swing, hoping to make it two in a row after a 5-3 win against the New York Islanders on Monday. They’re ready to face the New Jersey Devils (31-21-8) on Thursday night. The game also marks the start of the 10th back-to-back series for the Wild this season; they’re 4-4-1 on the first night.


    The Wild are just 1-5-4 all-time in the Devils’ building, though they’ve played better against them after winning just one of their first 10 games in the all-time, head-to-head series. The Devils are coming off a 2-1 loss to Columbus that snapped their four-game winning streak.


    It’s no secret the road has been a struggle for the Wild this season, but they’ve earned points in four of their past six games away from home. That’s something. Playoff watch: The Wild, with 71 points, hold the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference and are in fifth place in their division. A win over the Devils could leapfrog them over St. Louis and Dallas, each with 72 points. The Blues are idle Thursday, but the Stars play in Los Angeles.


    This is the second meeting between the non-conference foes. The Devils beat the Wild 4-3 in overtime back in November at Xcel Energy Center. In the moral victory category, the Wild had to rally from a two-goal deficit in the third period on a pair of Mikael Granlund goals to even force overtime.


    Alex Stalock will get his first start in net since Feb. 3, when he was pulled after giving up four goals in a 6-1 loss to Dallas. That game was the last time the Wild lost on the road. Stalock is 8-9-2 this season with a 2.77 GAA and .914 save percentage.


    Wild forward Zach Parise was a 2003 draft pick of the Devils, and he played in 502 games wearing a New Jersey sweater before his big signing with the Wild in the summer of 2012. This will be his fourth game back in New Jersey since the trade. He has a goal and four assists in seven career games against his former team.


    It’s still milestone-watch for the team’s leading scorer, Eric Staal. He has 899 points coming into the game. Staal would be the 110th NHL player (eighth active player) to reach 900 career points.


    Defenseman Jared Spurgeon is looking for his 200th point; he’s two away. The streaking Jason Zucker already set his career-high in goals this season with 25; he has three of them in the past two games.


    As for the Devils, the Wild will be looking to stop Taylor Hall, a player who has a point in 12 straight games after coming back from injury. If he hits 13 games, it will be the longest scoring streak in the league this season. He leads the Devils with 25 goals, 38 assists and 63 points. He also leads his team with 14 points in 21 games against the Wild.


    The next closest player to Hall in points is center Nico Hischier with his 13 goals and 40 points this season.


    Goaltender Cory Schneider got the victory in the first meeting with the Wild, but he’s missed time with a groin injury and is likely out for this game. The netminder will likely be Keith Kinkaid with his 13-8-2 record, 3.12 GAA and .897 save percentage this season.


    Injury list:

    Jonas Brodin (surgery on left hand), 6 games

    Total man games lost: 108


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