Heading into the Minnesota Wild’s game on Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers, here are some of the things we thought we knew...
Man, that Eric Staal collision looked pretty bad. He’ll probably miss time. Nope, not only does Staal miss zero games, his goal and assist were key for the Wild against Edmonton.
The Wild looked lost against the lowly Anaheim Ducks, so they’ve got zero chance against the first-place Oilers. Nope, the Wild beat the Oilers for the second time this season.
If Minnesota did beat Edmonton, surely it was by dominating defensively, because they’re definitely not going to win a high-scoring game. Nope, the Wild had their second-highest scoring game of the season in the 6-5 win.
Five goals? That must mean Connor McDavid sure had his way with the Wild, huh? Nope, McDavid was limited to one goal on one shot.
Korg says it best...
So, a Wild team that looked lost in one game on this homestand and offensively dominant in another will look to keep pace with Dallas and Vegas in the wildcard hunt by finishing off the homestand strong, as they take on the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night.
The defensively stingy Flyers are coming off a 3-1 loss at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche, and are in the midst of a three-game road trip. Saturday’s tilt against the Wild is the first of a back-to-back. Like the Wild, injuries have really started to take their toll on Philadelphia, as the Flyers will be missing leading scorer Travis Konecny. Konecny suffered a concussion on a hit by Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki on Monday. The Flyers have also been without winger Michael Raffl (broken finger) and center Nolan Patrick (migraines). And now leading goal scorer Oskar Lindblom is out for the rest of the season after being diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer (we are #OskarStrong).
Rookie defenseman Philippe Myers has also missed some time due to back spasms, but he may be in the lineup against the Wild. If Myers does return, it will only bolster a Flyers defense that has allowed the second-fewest shots in the league (28.8 per game), the fifth-fewest goals against (83) and owns the fourth-best penalty kill at 85.2%. And even if you think the power play unit can still take advantage despite the Flyers strength at killing off the man advantage, good luck with that. Because despite their mascot’s moniker, Philadelphia is the least penalized team in the NHL this season with only 211 PIMs assessed.
It’s unclear who will be guarding the crease for either team. As far as the Wild are concerned, it would make sense that after starting two games in a row and having a five-spot put up on him against the Oilers, rookie goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen would get the night off, meaning Alex Stalock would see his first action since a 6-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes a week ago. Of course, that’s no guarantee. Carter Hart and Brian Elliott have shared the goaltending duties relatively equally for Philadelphia, and since the Flyers are about to play back-to-back nights, Hart, who has started the last two, may give way to Elliott.
Both teams have been hot as of late (the Wild are 6-3-1 in their last 10, the Flyers 7-2-1), so a big two points are on the line between two teams right on the wildcard bubble for their respective conferences. Can the Wild maintain their offensive output against a tough Philadelphia defense? Can the Flyers overcome the lack of their own scoring firepower to maintain their grip on a playoff spot? Or in this weird, wacky time for both teams, will each squad simply send out their mascots to center ice to sumo wrestle for the two points?
My money’s on Gritty. Puck drops at 6 p.m. CT.
1. Will the Carson Soucy show continue?
The rookie defenseman has been red hot with five points in his last five games, leading head coach Bruce Boudreau to have this to say after the Oilers game:
Truly, very few expected the points or the ability to move the play up the ice that Soucy has shown recently. And then, there’s plays like this:
Sure, this diving stop was only necessary because he found himself beat on the play. He’s a rookie — there are bound to be some miscues. But the confidence, the vision and the offensive ability are seeming to come together at just the right time. Can it continue? Can Soucy build on what’s been a strong season for the former UMD Bulldog?
2. Will the balanced offensive attack continue?
During the points binge over late November and early December, the Wild have been putting copious amounts of rubber into the net, winning games 7-2 against Ottawa, 4-2 against Florida, 5-4 over Tampa Bay and 6-5 versus the Oilers. Despite the high totals, the offensive production has been pretty spread out, as not a single Wild player has scored two goals in a single game since Zach Parise scored twice in a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres back on November 19. Against the Oilers on Thursday night, a total of 12 players had at least a point, which is great to see on a team that’s missing key pieces like Mikko Koivu and Jared Spurgeon. Will someone step up and take over a game by himself? Or will the Wild continue to count on a balanced attack?
3. Paging the Wild power play...
Five straight games have gone by without a power-play goal for the Wild. Getting off that streak will be huge for the Wild’s prospects of defeating the Flyers, since as noted before, Philadelphia doesn’t commit a lot of penalties. When they do, they are adept at shutting down the man advantage. But since absolutely nothing has gone as expected recently, the Wild will probably go 3-for-5 on the power play against the Flyers (don’t quote us on that).
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