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  • Preview: Wild host Kraken in effort to create win streak


    Our favorite hockey team, the Minnesota Wild, have the opportunity to clinch their third consecutive win tonight against the Seattle Kraken. It will be a tough game no matter what, especially considering that the visitors have improved after their inaugural campaign.

    Wild vs. Kraken

    When: 7:00 p.m. CT
    Where: Xcel Energy Center
    Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

    With room on their cap and their roster, the Kraken went out and added to their team, taking advantage of teams that needed to get rid of a contract to sign other guys, or signing free agents to solid contracts. Mainly, it is the addition of wingers Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand that suddenly makes them a somewhat competitive team, with everyone else shuffling down the depth chart, creating an adequate lineup that can stand up against any team.

    Somehow, some way, the Kraken are an all-around team in front of their goaltender. Sporting the seventh-ranked shot attempt percentage at 5-on-5 and scoring 52.17 percent (12th in the NHL) of the goals at 5-on-5, this team is suddenly balanced and might not find themselves in the draft lottery.

    The Wild are still recovering their even-strength game from the dreadful start and are still near the bottom of the league rankings in goals scored at that game state and are just above breaking even with 50.06 percent of the shot attempts. Not the best sign from the two-way monster that they want to be, but it is certainly not disastrous. Being a middle-of-the-road team ain’t so bad.

    It will be a battle between two below-average teams when it comes to goaltending though. Minnesota is certainly climbing up the rankings with Marc-Andre Fleury’s recent play, but the Kraken are still muddling about with disappointing results in the crease. A bottom-12 save percentage at 5-on-5 (the Wild are still much worse, for the record) and in all situations the second-worst team save percentage with a .873, is certainly going to kill anything that the skaters in front can attempt to do.

    There will be an interesting balance between these two teams that are still trying to either not ruin everything that they have earned so far, and one that is still recovering from a rough start. They have the same amount of wins (five) and the same amount of losses in regulation (four) so maybe this is an even early-season matchup.

    Projected Wild lineup

    Kirill Kaprizov — Frederick Gaudreau — Mats Zuccarello
    Matt Boldy — Joel Eriksson Ek — Mason Shaw
    Connor Dewar — Marco Rossi — Tyson Jost
    Sam Steel — Steven Fogarty

    Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
    Jonas Brodin — Calen Addison
    Jon Merrill — Matt Dumba
    Alex Goligoski

    Marc-Andre Fleury is getting his third consecutive start with Filip Gustavsson in the backup role. It won’t be long without a Gustavsson start though, as next week the Wild are heading to California and have a back-to-back immediately.

    The Wild are going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen tonight against Seattle, with all their injuries up front and to get Alex Goligoski — who has been scratched for six consecutive games after hitting his 1,000-game milestone — some minutes. Whether it is Kirill Kaprizov, Matt Boldy, Joel Eriksson Ek, Mats Zuccarello, or Marco Rossi, expect some star players to get some action with the fourth line. Especially since they don’t have a game until next Tuesday, they can afford some guys to play longer than usual.

    Projected Kraken lineup:

    Andre Burakovsky — Alexander Wennberg — Oliver Bjorkstrand
    Jaden Schwartz — Matty Beniers — Jordan Eberle
    Jared McCann — Yanni Gourde — Brandon Tanev
    Ryan Donato — Morgan Geekie — Daniel Sprong

    Vince Dunn — Adam Larsson
    Jamie Oleksiak — Justin Schultz
    Carson Soucy — Will Borgen

    Martin Jones will likely be the starter, but it has not been confirmed.

    Yeah, you can’t really complain about that forward lineup given the opportunities they have had in the expansion draft and utilizing their flexibility to acquire some talented players. Maybe down the middle could be stronger, but we’re familiar with having a team earning wins despite not a strong batch of centers.

    Rookie Matty Beniers is still leading all first-year players in points with nine, and all of Beniers, Jared McCann, and Jaden Schwartz have scored five goals already on the season. Literally every player except the oft-scratched Shane Wright has scored a goal this season. That’s some offensive depth that they have.

    This will cause a tight game no matter who is on the ice, as these two teams battle out with all four forward lines and all three pairings.

    Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.

    Burning Questions

    Can the Wild earn a win without a powerplay goal?

    We asked the same question last time around, but it does seem like this team is still relying on the man advantage way too much. Is it a crime to want a solid 5-on-5 performance and just punish them when 10 skaters are on the ice? I hope not!

    Will we see a high-tempo matchup?

    With a whole lot of days off for the Wild, they might just go all-out and shock the Kraken into suffering a defeat. We know that this lineup can do it no matter what games lay ahead of them, but it will be interesting to see if that provides a little extra jump; just knowing that they have a long weekend ahead of them.

    Can Mason Shaw make it three great games in a row?

    All we are talking about is Mason Shaw (I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned him in this preview yet). The gritty hard-nosed winger has now scored in two consecutive games and we’re wondering if he can put in another top-tier performance. He doesn’t have to score a goal, but just look like he belongs as a middle-six winger and someone that can complement skill on an elite level. No biggie.

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