Greetings from downtown St. Paul, where the Wild and Colorado Avalanche will tangle tonight in a crucial battle, with postseason positioning on the line.
Minnesota is wrapping up a five-game homestand where it will try and even its record. Through four games, the Wild is 1-2-1 but has played better of late, earning all three of its points in its back-to-back games over the weekend.
A big part of that success came via the power play, which has now converted in three consecutive games after going six-straight without a single man-advantage tally.
As the games get bigger this time of year, special teams becomes more and more important, and that means converting on the power play.
"It's huge, these are all huge points here and those are all key situations that can make-or-break games," said Wild forward Luke Kunin. "We've gotta be dialed in and do the right things."
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The Wild scored twice with the man advantage in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders on Sunday, drawing six power plays in the process. It was just the fifth time in 73 games this season Minnesota has had that many power play chances.
Earning that many chances with the extra attacker comes from being aggressive and working hard, two keys to the Wild's success over the past two games.
"If you're moving your feet and working hard, they're going to have to find ways to take you down," Kunin said. "We want to stay out of the box and we want to have those opportunities on the power plays and I thought we did a good job of that last game."
Earning those opportunities is one thing, but capitalizing on them is another.
When the Wild went six games without a power-play goal, it was largely a byproduct of so many new players being worked in with little time to practice it. Ryan Donato, Kevin Fiala and Pontus Aberg have all been acquired in recent weeks and seen time on the power play, but with the late season schedule condensing and practice time at a premium, those new faces were forced to learn on the white board, by watching video and in trial by fire during games.
Last week, the Wild was finally able to have a good, hard special teams practice where the new personnel was able to get some work time together.
The results have been promising.
But practice time isn't the only reason why the power play has seen an uptick lately.
"Last game, we were shooting the puck. You gotta shoot the puck," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "Possession is nice, but you gotta shoot the puck, then you gotta get retrievals and you gotta win the first faceoff. Those are things we preach a lot and we've done the last three or four games, and consequently, we've gotten rewarded."
In case you missed it
• Here is today's Wild Warmup
• The Wild signed former University of Minnesota goaltender Mat Robson to a two-year contract on Monday. He's had some bad injury luck over the course of his career, but Wild GM Paul Fenton is a fan of Robson's ability to persevere
Video: Mat Robson on signing with Wild
• The Minnesota Whitecaps won the Isobel Cup on Sunday and celebrated by bringing the trophy to Xcel Energy Center
Video: Minnesota Whitecaps honored
Video: NYI@MIN: Ronda Curtin on Whitecaps winning Isobel Cup
• What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, except for this Wild-themed wedding that occurred the last time Minnesota was in town back in January
Video: Webisode: A Wild wedding
Here is the projected lineup for the Wild tonight against Colorado:
Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Jason Zucker
Jordan Greenway - Luke Kunin - Kevin Fiala
Ryan Donato - Victor Rask - Pontus Aberg
Marcus Foligno - Eric Fehr - J.T. Brown
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Greg Pateryn
Nick Seeler - Brad Hunt
Colorado is beginning a critical stretch of its schedule on Tuesday. The game marks the first of four-straight games against Central Division opponents, including a game Thursday in Dallas before a back-to-back, home-and-home against Chicago this weekend.
The Avs won 3-0 over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, the final game of a four-game homestand that saw Colorado go 2-2.
Nathan MacKinnon leads the Avalanche with 91 points and 37 goals. Mikko Rantanen has a team-leading 56 assists. Gabriel Landeskog will not play; he was diagnosed with an upper-body injury on March 6 that is expected to keep him out at least a month.
Philipp Grubauer made 22 saves in the win over the Devils and could get the nod on Tuesday. Grubauer is 12-9-3 in 29 games this season (25 starts) with a 2.90 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.
Here is how the Avs could look tonight:
Derick Brassard - Nathan MacKinnon - J.T. Compher
Colin Wilson - Carl Soderberg - Mikko Rantanen
Alexander Kerfoot - Tyson Jost - Matt Calvert
Sven Andrighetto - Gabriel Bourque - Ryan Graves
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Tyson Barrie
Nikita Zadorov - Patrik Nemeth
Watching/listening to tonight's game:
- The contest will be televised on FOX Sports North PLUS
- It can be streamed live via the FOX Sports App
- It can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM, the Wild Radio Network or via the Wild NHL App
If you're headed to tonight's game, here's what to expect:
Video: MN Wild Vision: Mar. 19 vs Colorado