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From the Rink: Wild hopes for spirited defensive effort in Philly

Flyers top line among the most explosive in the League early this season

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

PHILADELPHIA -- If the Wild wants to salvage the final game of its four-game Eastern Conference road trip, it will have to continue its stellar defensive play from the past two games.

After limiting the Toronto Maple Leafs to just 19 shots, the Wild shutout the Montreal Canadiens the following night, putting together two solid games in a row.

A win over the Philadelphia Flyers, who boast one of the top lines in hockey, will require a stellar defensive effort in its own right if Minnesota hopes to take things home with an even road trip.

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said the key for his club is taking away time and space, something it was not good at in the first game of the trip against Boston, but has slowly improved at the past two games.

"Not allowing them to get set up and do what they do. We call it 'quick to check,'" Boudreau said. "If we do that, and we showed some clips of us doing it today, then we're usually successful. When we let teams come into the zone without being pressured, then they usually have their way with us."

Video: Wild pregame at Philadelphia

That was certainly the case Monday night in Boston, when the Bruins scored each of their first two goals off rush opportunities where the Wild showed little resistance through the neutral zone and across their defensive blue line. 

It was better against Toronto, but still not as good as it needed to be. 

Versus the Canadiens, Minnesota made things difficult all night, surrendering 41 shots on goal, but few real quality scoring chances. 

In addition to giving goaltender Devan Dubnyk a clear line of sight on most shots, the Wild also blocked 28 shots, including five apiece by defensemen Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin, as well as forward Joel Eriksson Ek.

"When there's grade-A scoring chances, that's the time for everyone to do everything they can to keep [the puck] out [of the net]," Dubnyk said. "You saw that a few times last game; guys were getting in lanes and especially on the penalty kill. They are some huge plays and that's exactly what we need, especially in a game like that that we really needed to win."

The challenge for the Wild will be sustaining that effort against of the NHL's better offenses -- and specifically, best lines.

The Flyers' top group of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek has combined for 23 of Philadelphia's 50 goals scored this season. Those 50 goals rank tied for 11th most in the NHL. Philadelphia's 3.13 goals per game also ranks in the top half of the League.

"They're very skilled and they work hard," Spurgeon said. "I think as a group of five, you have to be able to track back and not give them the time and space to make plays. It's a team effort out there to make sure they're not feeling it."

Here are the projected lineups:


Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Jason Zucker

Tyler Ennis - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Daniel Winnik - Joel Eriksson Ek - Luke Kunin

Marcus Foligno - Matt Cullen - Chris Stewart

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba

Gustav Olofsson - Mike Reilly

Devan Dubnyk

Alex Stalock


Claude Giroux - Sean Couturier - Jakub Voracek

Travis Konecny - Valtteri Filppula - Wayne Simmonds

Jordan Weal - Jori Lehtera - Dale Weise

Taylor Leier - Scott Laughton - Michael Raffl

Ivan Provorov - Robert Hagg

Brandon Manning - Shayne Gostisbehere

Travis Sanheim - Mark Alt 

Brian Elliott

Michal Neuvirth

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