The Minnesota Wild were riding high, beating up on some lower teams like the Blackhawks, Islanders, and Canadiens; but were unfortunately shut out for the first time this season against the Winnipeg Jets earlier this week. A game that you couldn’t really blame either side for their misgivings when it came to actual hockey play — plays that were eventually shrouded with post-whistle conflicts and a two-game suspension to Marcus Foligno.
But all of that nonsense out of the way, the Wild are hosting one of the best teams in the league, if not the best.
The Carolina Hurricanes were everyone’s darling dark horse contender for the last several years. Being the quirky team that had some of the most underrated stars in Sebastian Aho and now Andrei Svechnikov, the southern team has grown into this behemoth of a match-up that has filled all their weaknesses and appears to be simply giant. A Goliath. If the Wild want to play David in this analogy, then maybe that’s the right place for them currently, as they’re getting their first taste among the league’s elite teams and being considered an upper-tier success story.
Tonight will be a true test for a team that wants to be right there when everything is over this summer.
Unfortunately, due to that suspension, they will be without arguably their best defensive player in Foligno, and will have Brandon Duhaime step in to supply some sort of substitution on the line with Jordan Greenway and Joel Eriksson Ek. Whether Duhaime can provide even half of what Foligno normally does, is still to be seen. The rookie isn’t afraid to mess things up in front of the opposing goaltender, and punch a dude in the face for being annoying, so there are at least two attributes going for him.
In more positive news, Matt Dumba will be making his return from a brief injury that forced him to miss the last two games. Now, he gets the great test of facing the depth that Carolina has in the lineup.
The Wild finally have a fully healthy blue line in what seems like forever, forcing out the mistake-laden game of Jordie Benn recently with a complete, and very deep blue line that should show more of that five-man offense that we saw earlier this season.
Projected lineup time:
Kaprizov - Hartman - Zuccarello
Greenway - Eriksson Ek - Duhaime
Boldy - Gaudreau - Fiala
Dewar - Sturm - Rask
Brodin - Dumba
Goligoski - Spurgeon
Merrill - Kulikov
Cam Talbot will get the start.
The Wild’s offense has been sputtering against the tougher teams, will they manage to overcome the Hurricanes’ top-notch defense to either get their fair share of chances?
It’s going to be tough to imagine the Wild not performing well offensively since they are so highly ranked in goals-per-game, but it’s true that a lot of that has been skewed by multi-goal decisions over terrible teams. Let’s see if they can do it against a good team.
Will Dumba’s return be noticeable?
It will certainly be interesting if we notice more of a jump offensively or defensively with Dumba coming back into the lineup. Regardless, we know that the team is clearly better with him rather than without.
See you at 7:00 p.m.
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