Afternoon from Edmonton, where the Wild begins its second four-game Canadian swing of the season – the first three on the old (R.I.P.) Northwest Division route.
The Wild went 1-1-1 in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton a few months ago, roughly, blowing a two-goal lead in a regulation loss in Vancouver, losing in a shootout in Calgary and beating Edmonton in overtime on Mikko Koivu’s winner and Devan Dubnyk’s superb performance. The Wild then continued to Toronto, where it also won and absolutely has taken off since.
Since beating Edmonton, the Wild’s a league-best 21-3-1 and carries a franchise-record 13-game road point streak (11-0-2) into tonight.
I’ll be on Fox Sports North during the pregame show and first intermission tonight, so please check that out. Also, I’ll be recording the latest Russo-Souhan Show this afternoon, so pay attention to Twitter in the next little bit for Jim Souhan’s tweet asking for questions.
Darcy Kuemper vs. Cam Talbot tonight. Bruce Boudreau said most likely Dubnyk would have started this game if not for the All-Star Game, but because the league keeps players so busy over the weekend and he basically saw no pucks other than 10 minutes, he wanted to give him today’s morning skate to really see rubber again.
Same Wild lineup in terms as skaters before the break, meaning Christian Folin will be scratched for a fourth consecutive game and Mike Reilly will be paired with Nate Prosser. Again, if Folin was to play with Prosser in the lineup, Prosser would have to play his off side – left D, and Boudreau doesn’t want to do that. So with Jonas Brodin hurt, Reilly and maybe eventually Gustav Olofsson will get games.
Right now, Boudreau says simply Prosser is playing well and deserves to stay in the lineup. With this being the front end of a back-to-back with the Wild in Calgary tomorrow night, Folin has the chance to maybe get back in if for no other reason than fresh legs.
“Pross has been pretty good, so there’s no reason to take him out,” Boudreau said. “We’ve got one extra, so some guys are going to sit out some games. Pross has sat out eight to 10 games in a row. This is his opportunity and he’s playing well.”
This is battle between two really hot teams tonight.
The Wild leads the West with 32 wins and 69 points and followed a 12-win December with a nine-win January so far.
The Oilers, 0-0-2 against the Wild this season, are 7-0-1 in their past eight games and have points in 22 of their past 27. They’re tied for first in the Pacific Division. The last time they had at least a share of division lead at the All-Star break was 1989-90.
“They’re starting to feel that they are good, and they are good,” Boudreau said.
Kuemper will have to be sharp tonight. He is 3-2-1 in his past six starts with a 3.51 goals-against average and .897 save percentage.
The Wild has been getting him big leads recently. Usually those leads have been surrendered. So the Wild really would like him to get his game going tonight so this team can start the road trip off on a good note.
Mikael Granlund has a career-best nine-game point streak – one short of the team record. He leads the Wild with 42 points and has 28 points in the past 24 games. Nino Niederreiter has two three-point games in his past five. Zach Parise has no goals and three assists in the past 10 games but playing real well on this sizzling line with Erik Haula and Jason Pominville the past four or five games.
If the Wild can get three good lines able to score nightly, that’ll be quite the coup in the last few months. Charlie Coyle has one goal in the past 15 games and really needed an All-Star break reset mentally and physically. As I’ve alluded to, he has been playing hurt.
Talbot is 14-1-4 when he stops 30-plus shots. Young stars Connor McDavid (three goals, nine points), who leads the NHL in scoring, and Leon Draisaitl (three goals, eight points) are on six-game point streaks. McDavid has 18 multi-point games.
The Wild’s 12-3-1 in the past 16 meetings with the Oilers, 12-1 in its last 13 games in Edmonton, including a current seven-game winning streak. The Wild’s 108 points against Edmonton are its most against any franchise and its 23 wins in Edmonton and 49 wins overall are the most against any franchise.
Talk to you tonight.