The Minnesota Wild (20-11-7) have dropped their first two games of 2016, scoring only three total goals in losses to Tampa Bay and Florida, the latter a 2-1 defeat despite firing 39 shots on goal.
Jason Zucker scored just 48 seconds into the second period to tie the game for the Wild, but Jaromir Jagr’s two goals sealed the game for the Panthers. In between the pipes for the Wild, Devan Dubnyk made 27 saves in a losing effort.
Previously, the Wild had won nine of its 14 games in the month of December. The team is 5-4-1 in the last 10 games overall and is being lead offensively by veteran forward and team captain Mikko Koivu (more on that later).
Head coach Mike Yeo’s team is built well with forwards like Koivu, Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek, and defensemen like Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon. Minnesota has qualified for the playoffs the previous three seasons (they were knocked out by the Chicago Blackhawks each time), and currently sit in the middle of a very tough Central Division.
Columbus will close out its three-game homestand against Minnesota. Here’s a few updates on the Jackets:
Cody Goloubef, who was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 24, skated on a regular defense pairing alongside Jack Johnson on Monday and could return to the lineup (pending medical clearance from Blue Jackets doctors) for this game.
John Tortorella said that Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo, both up from the Lake Erie Monsters (AHL), will be the goaltending tandem for the foreseeable future due to injuries to both Sergei Bobrovsky (groin) and Curtis McElhinney (sprained ankle). Both Forsberg and Korpisalo have recorded their first NHL wins this season.
The last time these two teams met, on Oct. 22 at Xcel Energy Center, Tortorella made his debut as head coach of the Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets played a strong road game and may have deserved a better fate, but ultimately dropped the game, 3-2, to the Wild.
Parise opened the scoring for the Wild at 5:04 of the first period, and at 10:16 of that frame Alexander Wennberg evened the score for the Blue Jackets.
Later in the first, at 19:39, Brandon Dubinsky scored on the power play to give the Jackets 2-1 lead after 20 minutes of regulation. But Nino Niederreiter and then Vanek added goals in the second period to seal the deal for the Wild.
The Jackets are 26-21-4 in the all-time series against the Wild, and had won five straight meetings prior to the aforementioned road loss.
Koivu, at age 32, leads the Minnesota Wild with 32 points and is as consistent as they come at both ends of the rink.
So far this season, Koivu has notched 10 goals and added 22 assists, and leads the team in the latter category. Four of his 10 goals have been scored on the power play, with one shorthanded tally and also one game-winner.
Born in Finland, Koivu was selected by Minnesota in the first round (sixth overall) of the 2001 NHL Draft. He has spent all of his 11 NHL seasons with the Wild, and has established himself as one of the league’s best defensive-minded forwards who can also find his way on to the scoresheet.