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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. Carolina

Wild and Hurricanes set to tangle in Saturday matinee at Xcel Energy Center

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /
The essentials

Who: Carolina Hurricanes (11-7-1) at Minnesota Wild (7-11-1)

Puck drop: 1:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North, FOX Sports App

Listen: KOOL108 FM 107.9, Wild Radio NetworkWild NHL App

Follow: @mnwild; @mnwildscribe; GameCenter

The Wild Warmup is presented by Bryant Heating and Cooling

ST. PAUL -- The Wild will try and continue its hot start on home ice on Saturday afternoon when it hosts the Carolina Hurricanes at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota has tallied at least one point in each of its past five contests on home ice, posting a 4-0-1 record during that stretch, including a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. 

While its struggles on the road are well documented, the success on home ice has been more in line with years past, where Minnesota has been one of the most formidable teams in the League on its own surface.

That changed last season, when the Wild won just 16 of its 41 home games. Minnesota has won four of its first six so far with a chance to run that number to five out of seven before another lengthy stretch of road games begins; the Wild plays seven of its next 10 away from home after Saturday. 

"We've played good in this building for a long time," said Wild forward Jason Zucker. "Every year that I've been here other than last year, we've been dominant in this building and that's the way we want to make it again and I think we've done a pretty good job of that this year."

The Wild has been playing better hockey of late, in some part, because of consistency within its lines. 

Mikko Koivu has centered Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala for the past several games. Eric Staal has been between Zucker and Mats Zuccarello. Joel Eriksson Ek has been with Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin, and Victor Rask has been between Ryan Donato and Ryan Hartman.

That has allowed some chemistry to form, specifically with the Koivu group. Fiala and Parise scored two of the Wild's three goals against Arizona and Fiala is playing his best hockey since joining the Wild last February.

"I haven't played with those two guys in the start of the season and even last year when I came, Mikko wasn't available," Fiala said. "It's starting to, the chemistry is really coming. We can find each other blind. We know where guys stand. It's been fun now."

The Hurricanes come to town riding high after a 5-4 overtime win in Buffalo on Thursday night. Carolina is seventh in the NHL in goals scored this season and is averaging 3.15 goals per contest.

Carolina, which began the day Friday atop the wild card standings in the Eastern Conference, is led offensively by defenseman Dougie Hamilton. His game-winning goal against the Sabres on Thursday gave him nine goals and 21 points on the season.

Forward Andrei Svechnikob has eight goals and 21 points. 

Forward Erik Haula (eight goals, 11 points) and Nino Niederreiter (two goals, seven points) are among familiar faces in big roles with the Hurricanes.

Goaltender Petr Mrazek has seen a bulk of the action in goal this season, posting a 9-3-1 record in 13 starts, with a 2.62 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage. 

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