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  • Florida Panthers at Minnesota Wild: Game Preview, Tale of the Tape, How to watch


    Tonight, live at the X! Your Minnesota Wild cap off a thus far successful 3-game home stand as they welcome the Florida Panthers to St. Paul. The puck drops on tonight’s action at 7 pm local time as the Wild look to extend their season-high 4-game winning streak to a 5th game. The Panthers come rolling into Minnesota having won just 1 game in their last 5 and are kicking off a 3-game road trip of their own.

    Prowling the Panthers

    The Panthers have had quite the roller coaster season. They come into tonight’s contest after losing 4 of their last 5 games, but the pendulum may be starting to swing the other way for the cats who won their most recent contest against the Vancouver Canucks by a 4-2 margin. Roberto Luongo made 37 saves against his old comrades to help get the Panthers into the win column. The ageless Jaromir Jagr will be playing in his 1,659th career NHL game having recently moved past Mark Recchi for 4th place on the all-time list. Jagr, who will turn 45 in February, earned an assist against the Canucks, placing his 1,883 career points just 4 points behind Mark Messier for 2nd all time, yet still nearly 1,000 points behind the high water mark set by Wayne Gretzky.

    The Panthers Aleksander Barkov is riding a 4-game point streak where he has scored 3 goals along with 2 assists in that span. The 21-year old center leads the team with 20 points this season on the back of 6 goals and 14 assists. Former first overall selection Aaron Ekblad hasn't had the start to the season he had hoped, registering just 9 points thus far with only 2 assists to his name.

    One of us, and Golden Gopher alum, Kyle Rau, who hails from Eden Prarie, has only managed to pot 2 goals with in assist in his 20 games this season, but will be playing inspired hockey in front of all his friends and family at the X. Nick Bjudstad, another local kid, has played in just 5 games this season and missed time to the infirmary. He has not found the score sheet yet in his 5 games, but, like Rau, will be looking to impress in front of his friends and family in Minnesota.

    While Luongo turned in a stellar performance against the Canucks, Wild fans are quick to remember his long history playing for Vancouver rather than the Panthers. More specifically, they might recall just how absolutely terrible Lou would play in St. Paul. In 17 games and 16 starts at the X, Luongo has a record of 3-11-2, allowing 50 goals against on 432 shots and posting a 3.21 GAA along side an abysmal .884 Sv%. It will be interesting to see if this little tidbit factors into whether they start him or James Reimer tonight.

    Though the Panthers are just 29 games into the season, it has not been without it's difficult moments. Nearly 2 weeks ago they fired head coach Gerald Gallant after starting the season 11-10-1. GM Tome Rowe stepped in as interim and things haven't gotten much better for Florida. The Panthers have gone 2-2-3 in the 7 games since Rowe took over. The Panthers on the season are 13-12-4 garnering them 30 points which is good enough for 6th place in the Atlantic Division after tie-breakers.

    The good news doesn't stop there though. Centerman Jonathan Huberdeau has missed the entire regular season, currently sidelined after having his Achilles tendon surgically repaired. Alex Petrovic has also missed significant time with an ankle injury. Jon Marchessault has missed the last 4 games with a lower-body injury leaving the team without their leading goal scorer (10 goals on the season). He did skate with the team yesterday but remains a game-time decision. If he does play, he was skating with Kyle Rau and Colton Sceviour on the 3rd line yesterday and may slot in there tonight. Denis Malgin was brought up to fill in for Huberdeau but missed last game with an undisclosed injury. We'll know more about his status for the game as the day progresses.

    Your Minnesota Wild

    The Wild are looking to ride this wave as far as it will take them. Winners of their last 4 consecutive games, and based on past performance against the Panthers, the Wild stand a good chance of pushing that winning streak to 5 games. In 19 games against the Panthers all-time, the Wild are 13-3-1-2 and boast a .763 win percentage, their best mark against any team in the NHL.

    With a little help from the Nashville Predators tonight, who play the St. Louis Blues, the Wild could climb into a tie for 2nd place in the Central Division this evening with a win over the Panthers. Eric Staal comes into tonight’s game leading the Wild with 19 points off 6 goals and 13 assists and earned his 800th career point assisting on an empty net goal by Mikael Granlund against the Blues last game. Charlie Coyle is right on his tail with 9 goals and 9 assists for 18 points and Nino Niederreiter is right on their heels with 17 points from 8 goals and 9 assists. All told, the Wild have 11 players on the roster with 10 or more points, and Jared Spurgeon is poised to join them if he can get on the score sheet tonight.

    Of course, the "A" topic with this Minnesota Wild squad is Devan Dubnyk who is having a Vezina caliber season between the pipes. His 13-6-3 record may not look like much, but his .946 Sv%, 1.63 GAA, and 4 shutouts are top marks in the NHL. At some point he’s going to need some help. With 4 of the 5 point producing forwards coming from the younger generation (Coyle, Nino, Granlund, and Jason Zucker) the Wild are in desparate need for some of the veterans (looking at you Zach Parise and Jason Pominville) to step up their game.

    Turns out there's some truth behind this doctor. Give him a twitter follow @DrAlbertoTuongo

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