MINNESOTA WILD AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS
12:00PM Central, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
TV: Fox Sports-North
Radio: KFAN 100.3 and affiliates
Streaming: Fox Sports Go app
So the long homestand didn’t serve the Wild quite as well as we may have hoped coming in. Minnesota did take points in four out of its five contests at Xcel Energy Center, only losing in regulation to the Washington Capitals. But in reality, the team lost three out of five, and really should have beaten Arizona and Anaheim, meaning it left two crucial points on the table. Hopefully those two points won’t come back to bite us in the end.
Minnesota now heads to a place that has haunted it for large parts of the season—the road. The Wild embarks on its three-game swing through the New York Metro Area, with stops in Brooklyn, Newark and Manhattan. With today being President’s Day, the Wild and Islanders will play an early matinee game at the basketball spaceship in Brooklyn, so hopefully you have the day off. **Editor’s Note: I do not have today off [frowny face].**
Part of me is actually relieved that the Wild didn’t take the extra point in the butt-clenching eleven-round shootout with the Ducks on Saturday, because a victory there would have made Minnesota jump right to the 70-point mark. Instead, here we sit… with 69 points. Nice.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
It’s been a very strange season for the Islanders, which remain inside the Eastern Conference playoff bubble with the last Wild Card spot, despite being the worst team in the league in terms of defense and goaltending. New York has given up 214 goals on the season, equating to a 3.55 team goals against average. That’s nineteen more goals allowed than the next highest team, the Buffalo Sabres.
But while the Isles have absolutely stunk in their own end this season, they’ve scored enough at the other end to keep them relevant, as their 197 goals are good for fourth in the NHL in that category. As you might imagine, this is a team that is quite comfortable in a high-scoring track meet, so the Wild will aim to keep this one a low scoring affair.
Minnesota’s timing in taking on the Isles isn’t great, because they are weirdly coming off of two straight shutouts, setting a unique NHL record in the process.
Making that stat more intriguing is the fact that the two shutouts were pitched by two different normally very leaky netminders in Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss. Greiss has since been put on IR, so expect to see Halak between the pipes today. The Wild needs to get to Halak early and often to make sure he doesn’t get back in the same rhythm he found in his 50-save shutout of the Rangers on Thursday.
The Islanders suddenly have a stacked team offensively, with superstar potential free agent John Tavares leading the way with 64 points (30 goals, 34 assists). Meanwhile, rookie phenom Mathew Barzal (62 points) continues to take the league by storm with his silky smooth hands, and Josh Bailey (62 points) is shocking the hockey world with his gigantic breakout season. Anders Lee is also on the cusp of his 30th goal, and offseason acquisition Jordan Eberle has hit the 20-goal plateau. As you can see, there are plenty of guys in Brooklyn that can light it up, so Minnesota will need to be very tight defensively.
FYI, today is John Tavares Jersey Pillow Day, so get to the game early if you’re going!
Saturday marked the fifteenth time this season that the Wild has at least been tied in the third period and didn’t end up winning the game. So many missed opportunities have badly damaged Minnesota’s chances at a postseason berth, but despite all the late-game collapses, it is still somehow in the playoff picture. In fact, though the less-than-stellar homestand left a bad taste, Minnesota is now just three points behind both the Blues and the Stars, and has at least a game in hand on both. As I’ve said all along, the third spot in the Central Division has to be Minnesota’s target, and it is continuing to chip away at the deficit to get there.
Devan Dubynk got called out by Bruce Boudreau for giving up four “soft goals” in Minnesota’s loss to Washington, but the big netminder bounced back quite nicely on Saturday. Dubnyk gave his team every chance to win that contest against Anaheim, pushing the game all the way to the eleventh shootout round, before finally letting one slip through the wickets. This road trip has a strange make-up to it, as the Wild plays today, but then has two full days off before taking on the Devils and Rangers on consecutive nights. As such, I would expect Dubnyk to get the nod once again today.
The last time these teams faced each other, it was a predictably high-scoring affair, with the Wild ultimately skating away with a 6-4 victory at the X.
Still no Jonas Brodin. Also, Michael Russo reported that Nino Niederreiter is still laboring from what he revealed was actually a fractured fibula. Niederreiter was benched for a lot of the third period and all of overtime Saturday, while having one of his poorest performances of the season. Now we know that the Swiss Mister is still fighting through some rather serious injuries, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the season.
For the Isles, Shane Prince, Nikolay Kulemin, Calvin de Haan, Scott Mayfield, and Greiss are all on the shelf, per Rotoworld.
The Gamethread will post at 11:30AM Central. Below are the projected lineups, thanks to DailyFaceoff.com.