From the Rink: New-look Wild embarks on bruising stretch
Five of Minnesota's next six games come away from Xcel Energy Center beginning tonight in Winnipegby Dan Myers @MNWildScribe / Wild.com
Greetings from north of the border in chilly Winnipeg, where the Wild and Jets will each welcome new faces to the lineup in their final meeting of the regular season at Bell MTS Place.
First things first: New Wild forward Kevin Fiala is expected to arrive in Manitoba early this afternoon and should be in the lineup tonight.
With Fiala in for Mikael Granlund, who was playing center for the Wild with Mikko Koivu out for the season, Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau will have to do even more line juggling. The newly re-signed Eric Staal is a shoo-in at one center spot, and for now, Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin will mix in as well. Kunin grew up playing center, but hasn't played much of it since his time with the U.S. National Development Team Program in Ann Arbor.
Still, Kunin's strong two-way game should suit him well down the middle.
Video: Wild pregame at Winnipeg
"I'm not too worried about it, it's pretty much normal for me," Kunin said. "I think I'll be moving more, more involved in all the plays. When you're playing center, you're more involved all over the ice, especially in the d-zne, you're not standing around very much. Always being moving and engaged, I think that will help me. I'm looking forward to it."
Eric Fehr, of course, will remain the fourth-line centerman.
Winnipeg made several trades on Monday, acquiring forward Kevin Hayes from the New York Rangers in their biggest deal of the day. Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu was also nabbed from the Buffalo Sabres.
Of course, the Wild and Jets also traded with each other, with Minnesota sending forward Matt Hendricks back to Winnipeg in exchange for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Tuesday's game continues a brutal stretch of games for the Wild, one which began Sunday with a 2-1 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues.
The Jets are in second place in the Central Division, but trail Nashville by just one point and have three games in hand.
After a couple days back in St. Paul, the Wild will travel to Calgary, for a matchup against the Pacific Division's best team and the top club in the Western Conference, the Flames, on Saturday.
After that, the Wild has a quick turnaround back in St. Paul against the Predators on Sunday.
A rematch with the Preds next Tuesday in Nashville is after that, followed by back-to-back games in Tampa -- the NHL's best team -- and against the Florida Panthers.
The Wild returns from the Sunshine State to begin a five-game homestand against the San Jose Sharks, arguably the NHL's hottest team.
Boudreau wasn't kidding last week when he said the upcoming stretch is likely to make-or-break the Wild's season, considering Minnesota enters the night Tuesday tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
The Wild partook in a morning skate today at Bell MTS Place. Here is what it looked like:
In case you missed it
Here is today's Wild Warmup
There is a ton of deadline-day content roaming the Wild dot com as we speak:
• Eric Staal's decision to re-sign with Minnesota for two more years had a lot more to do than just the on-ice product ... although he's excited about that too
Video: Staal talks contract extension
• Check out the Trade Tracker for a recap on all deals made by the Wild over the past six weeks
• GM Paul Fenton met with the media following the deadline to provide fans with a look at what the club is getting in Fiala, a player Fenton is certainly familiar with
Video: GM Paul Fenton talks Fiala trade
Here is a look at how the Wild could lineup tonight in Winnipeg:
Jordan Greenway - Eric Staal - Jason Zucker
Zach Parise - Luke Kunin - Kevin Fiala
Ryan Donato - Joel Eriksson Ek - Pontus Aberg
Marcus Foligno - Eric Fehr - J.T. Brown
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Greg Pateryn
Nick Seeler - Brad Hunt
The Jets have won just three of their past 10 games and are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. Losses in four of their past five overall, including consecutive defeats on home ice, have the Jets just one point clear of the Nashville Predators for the top spot in the Central Division entering the day on Monday, although the Jets have two games in hand.
Blake Wheeler leads Winnipeg with 60 assists and 72 points. Mark Scheifele has 30 goals and 68 points. Patrik Laine has 28 goals and Kyle Connor has 24 goals to go with 48 points.
Connor Hellebuyck is the likely starter in goal. He has 27-17-2 with a 2.98 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
The projected lineup for the homestanding Jets:
Patrik Laine - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler
Mathieu Perreault - Kevin Hayes - Nikolaj Ehlers
Kyle Connor - Bryan Little - Jack Roslovic
Andrew Copp - Adam Lowry - Brandon Tanev
Nathan Beaulieu - Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot - Sami Niku
Dmitry Kulikov - Tyler Myers
Watching/listening to tonight's game:
- The game will be televised on FOX Sports North
- It can also be streamed on the FOX Sports app
- It can be heard on FM 100.3 KFAN or the Wild Radio Network
- You can also stream the audio online in the Wild app