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  • Minnesota Wild @ Pittsburgh Penguins: Game Preview, Start Time, TV Schedule


    If you’re not having a good week, then you are probably just as excited as I am that hockey’s back. The Minnesota Wild travel to Pittsburgh tonight to face-off against the Penguins.

    This will be just the second game for Minnesota in the last week and a half, which has seemed to be a theme for the Wild in the season’s early days. However, those breaks came off the heels of winning and good play from Minnesota.

    That’s not the case this time.

    Minnesota is still finding their way under Bruce Boudreau, making a not-so-smooth turnover from being a Mike Yeo dump-and-chase team. Their play had improved over the last two games, but nonetheless, they’re still on a 2-game losing streak.

    The reason? The goals are starting to dry up, even as Devan Dubnyk continues to give a superhuman performance in net. But with 1 game since Halloween, there’s been plenty of practices to get the little things right. We’ll see if the time off pays off.

    Erik Haula could return to the lineup tonight, and he’s been very much missed from the lineup. Minnesota’s center depth has been completely lost without him, and their bottom-6 has been in total flux. Haula should stabilize that, giving Minnesota the flexibility to move Joel Eriksson Ek either to the wing, or to the fourth-line.

    As for Pittsburgh, the reigning champions have what they lacked a year ago: a hot start. The Pens are looking every bit like the well-oiled machine, especially on the offensive side of the puck. The usual names are torching the league- Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, and especially Sidney Crosby. Recovered from a concussion that kept him out on Opening Night, Crosby is fourth in the league with 8 goals in 7 games.

    To put this in perspective, Pittsburgh’s coach got fired before Crosby scored his 8th goal last season.

    Oh, and they have penalty killing genius Matt Cullen, who has 9 points in 13 games. If only Minnesota could’ve signed him this summer for a modest salary! Alas, this opportunity was never available.

    Even their Achilles’ Heel has come to a close. Marc-Andre Fleury was shaky early on in the absence of Matt Murray, but Murray’s now returned, and he looks stellar, posting a .951 save percentage through 3 games. Sure, no one’s going to maintain a save percentage that great, but considering his performance in the playoffs and his great track record in the AHL, it’s safe to say that he’s going to be really good. And if you can get good goaltending behind that offense?

    Well, you should be terrified.

    To counter this incredible offense, Dubnyk will be starting in net, because 1) Dubnyk’s been a Top-3 goalie this season, and 2) Darcy Kuemper’s confidence levels are so low that Boudreau shouldn’t even tell Kumper the Penguins exist, let alone put him on the ice in an actual game against Pittsburgh. So that’s an easy decision.

    So is putting Mike Reilly in the game. Recalled from the AHL after Minnesota put Marco Scandella on the LTIR, Reilly is looking for another chance to stick in St. Paul. Reilly had a strong showing in a bad situation in Iowa, scoring 7 points in 7 games. He was also very good for Minnesota down the stretch last season, moving the puck with poise and confidence. If he can get back to that, he’ll help a defense that has struggled mightily to get out of its own zone.

    That’ll really be the key matchup: Can Minnesota’s defenseman not only defend well against Pittsburgh’s aggressive attack, but also make quick enough decisions to spark an attack of their own?

    Probably not, but crazier things have happened. This week.

    Our game thread drops at 5:45, puck drop is at 6. Tale of the Tape resumes this weekend.

    Take care of yourselves, and each other.

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