DETROIT – Since the Red Wings played in Minnesota last month, the Wild have gone … well, wild.
After posting a 3-1 win at Vancouver on Monday night, the Wild have posted a 9-3-0 record in the last dozen games. The Wild now sit atop of the Northwest Division with 34 points, just two-points ahead of the Canucks.
The Wild visit Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday, in what is the Red Wings’ only home game prior to Easter Sunday. The game is also the season-series finale between the two clubs, who split the first two contests this season.
“They’re a hard working team,” Wings defenseman Brian Lashoff said. “Obviously, a guy like (Zach) Parise is on the puck a lot and he’s tenacious, as is (Ryan) Suter, two new guys who are helping them out a lot. So I think if we can keep our special teams going the way that they have in the last couple of games I think we’ll be alright.”
Special team play will be a challenge for the Wings, who have struggled with consistency all season. Minnesota, however, has scored a power-play goal in nine of its last 11 games, going 9-for-39 in that stretch. Minnesota is 9-5-1 when scoring a power-play goal, and 7-5-1 when it is stopped on the man-advantage.
The Wild are benefiting from their defensive unit, which aside from Suter, are a combination of young prospects, like 2010 first-round pick Jonas Brodin, and crafty veterans, such as Tom Gilbert.
“They have a real good back end,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “Everybody knows about Suter, but Brodin is a player that’s going to be known well in the league over time. I think (Jared) Spurgeon is really smart guy, and playing well. (Clayton) Stoner and (Justin) Falk are great big men that can skate and move the puck, and Gilbert is playing in their 5-6 pair, which is pretty good D-men to be playing in their 5-6 pair. That’s a pretty good group.”
As someone who has played against some of the top forwards in the Western Conference in his first season, Lashoff said the Wild’s lines are extremely dangerous, especially a guy like Parise, who has seven points in the last six games, and eads the Wild with 11 goals this season.
“He’s definitely one of the guys that I’ve noticed,” Lashoff said. “He’s very aggressive and on the puck and he never gives up and battles in the offensive zone for sure. He’s one of the tougher players that I’ve had to play against.”
PLAYER TO WATCH
Center - MIN
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 19
SOG: 58 | +/-: 6
C MATT CULLEN – The knock on Cullen in the past has been that he’s often too inconsistent. But that criticism isn’t holding much water this month as the Minnesota native has a goal and nine assists in his last 10 games. Never known as a dominant player, he has put together a steady 14-season career with the Ducks, Panthers, Hurricanes, Rangers, Senators and the Wild. In the final year of his contract, Cullen will likely become the subject of trade rumors as the April 3 trade deadline nears. … He has 199 career goals in 1,058 career games and will become the 37th American-born NHL player with 200 career goals, joining teammate Zach Parise. Cullen is also set to become the 10th Minnesotan to score 200 NHL goals, joining former Red Wings defenseman Reed Larson, who is fifth on the list with 222 goals. … The Wild is 3-0-0 this season when Cullen has two or more points. He’s been held without a point in two games against the Red Wings this year. In 37 career games against Detroit, Cullen has three goals and five assists.
Season Series: 1-1-0
2011-12 Season Series: 2-1-1
All-Time Series Season: 30-8-3-5
Minnesota’s Season Record: 16-10-2
Top Scorer vs. Red Wings: Mikko Koivu – 1 Goal, 6 Assist in 5 Games.
Red Wings’ Top Scorer – Valtteri Filppula – 2 Goals, 6 Assists in 6 games.
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
Tickets to this game and all 7 remaining regular-season contests at The Joe are currently available for purchase at the JLA box office (313-396-7575), all Ticketmaster (800-745-3000) outlets, and online at DetroitRedWings.com.