Who: Minnesota Wild (27-23-5) at New York Islanders (32-16-6)
Puck drop: 2:08 p.m. CT
Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports app
Listen: KFAN FM 100.3, Wild Radio Network, Wild NHL App
Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter
It can be a long, monotonous wait, the several hours between morning skate and the Wild's normal primetime puck drops.
Most of the team's players who double as parents spend it with their families, either in person when Minnesota's at home or FaceTime when it's on the road. The youngsters tend to head back to their St. Paul or Minneapolis apartments to pass the time.
But there's something about rolling out of bed and straight to the rink for a game that's been good to the Wild this season -- especially on the road, where it's now 7-1-0 in games that start at 3 p.m. or earlier this season following a 4-2 win Saturday afternoon at New Jersey. After quelling some post-All-Star demons against the Devils, the Wild will look to take a big bite out of the Big Apple in another matinee Sunday, this time in Brooklyn against the Islanders.
And while it's not quite the 6 a.m. ice times so many players can recall from their youth, a 2 p.m. CT faceoff would seem to bode well for a Wild club seeking a successful run as the NHL Trade Deadline approaches.
It won't come easy against the top team in the Metropolitan Division. Coach Barry Trotz has New York playing some of its best hockey since it moved off Long Island in 2015, and it starts with a platoon in net. Splitting starts throughout the season, goaltenders Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss rank first and fifth in the NHL with 2.02 and 2.33 goals-against averages, respectively.
Center Mathew Barzal (43 points) leads a core of scorers that includes Edina native Anders Lee (18 goals) and Minneapolis' Brock Nelson (17 goals, 17 assists). The Islanders are 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, including a 4-3 overtime home victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.
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Sunday's contest completes Minnesota's tenth set of 15 back-to-backs this season. The Wild is 4-6-0 in the first game of back-to-backs and 5-3-1 in the second.
On the road again
Minnesota is 7-3-1 in its last 11 road games, highlighted by a four-game winning streak, Dec. 29 - Jan. 7, the longest road-winning streak of the season. The Wild ranks second in the NHL with seven road wins and T-3rd with 15 road points since Dec. 29.
Zach Parise leads the Wild in road scoring with 27 points (14-13=27) this season. Mikael Granlund is second with 22 points (7-15=22) and Eric Staal is third with 19 points (6-13=19).
Minnesota leads the NHL with a 7-1-0 record in games that start at 3 p.m. or earlier this season:
- 11/11 at STL (2 pm) 3-2 W
- 11/23 vs. WPG (3 pm) 4-2 W
- 12/15 vs. CGY (12:30 pm) 2-1 L
- 12/29 at WPG (3 pm) 3-1 W
- 1/3 at TOR (2 pm) 4-3 W
- 1/5 at OTT (1 pm) 4-3 W
- 1/21 at VGK (3 pm) 4-2 W
- 2/9 at NJ (1 pm) 4-2 W
Offense by defense
Per NHL stats, Minnesota leads the NHL in goals scored by defensemen (35) and in percentage of team goals by defensemen (22.7%). The Wild blueliners also rank T-1st in the NHL with 11 PPG (Florida).
Despite not playing since Dec. 15, Matt Dumba ranks T-2nd with 12 goals and Jared Spurgeon ranks T-8th with 10.
Overall, Minnesota defensemen have totaled 113 of the team's 422 points this season, ranking sixth amongst NHL team defensemen with a 26.8 percentage.
Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno and Luke Kunin tallied five (3-2=5) of the Wild's nine points Saturday.
Eriksson Ek netted his fourth goal, second in as many games to tie his career high goal streak. He has five points (3-2=5) in his last eight games. Foligno recorded two points (1-1=2) for his 21st career multi-point game, first this season. He leads the team with 148 hits this season. Kunin also registered two points (1-1=2) for his fourth career multi-point game, second in the last three matches. He is on a career-high three-game point streak (1-4=5). The 22-year-old owns a career-high nine points this season while matching his career-best two goals.
All-time Wild record: 14-9-1 (8-3-1 at Xcel Energy Center, 6-6-0 at New York)
2017-18: Minnesota swept its season series against New York (2-0-0) with a 6-4 victory at Xcel Energy Center (10/26) and a 5-3 win at Barclays Center (2/19) … D Matt Dumba (0-3=3), D Jared Spurgeon (0-3=3), C Eric Staal (1-2=3) and LW Jason Zucker (3-0=3) each led the Wild with three points … C Joel Eriksson Ek (1-1=2), LW Marcus Foligno (1-1=2) and D Ryan Suter (0-2=2) tallied two points apiece … G Devan Dubnyk went 2-0-0 with a 3.50 GAA and a .897 SV% in two starts … RW Josh Bailey (0-3=3), D Johnny Boychuk (0-3=3) and LW Anders Lee (2- 1=3) led the Islanders with three points each … C Mathew Barzal (1-1=2) and D Nick Leddy (1-1=2) tallied two points apiece … G Thomas Greiss made 27 saves in the first contest … G Jaroslav Halak stopped 27-of-32 shots in the second contest.
WILD LEADERS: Staal leads the Wild with 49 points (24-25=49) in 50 contests vs. the Islanders … LW Zach Parise owns 45 points (20-25=45) -- his most against any NHL team -- in 50 games … C Mikko Koivu owns 14 points (3-11=14) in 15 matches … Suter has nine points (1-8=9) in 16 contests … C Victor Rask owns nine points (4-5=9) in 17 games.
WILD GOALIES: Dubnyk is 5-4-0 with a 3.18 GAA and a .905 SV% in nine career starts against New York … G Alex Stalock is 0-2-1 with a 3.00 GAA and a .909 SV% in three games (two starts).
ISLANDERS LEADERS: C Jordan Eberle leads the Islanders with 21 points (6-15=21) in 28 games vs. the Wild … LW Andrew Ladd has 19 points (5- 14=19) in 32 matches … C Valtteri Filppula owns 18 points (5-13=18) in 36 contests … Leddy has 13 points (3-10=13) in 23 games.
ISLANDERS GOALIES: Greiss is 3-3-0 with a 2.85 GAA and a .906 SV% in six career starts against Minnesota … G Robin Lehner is 2-1-1 with a 2.50 GAA, a .909 SV% and one shutout in five games (four starts).
CONNECTIONS: Minnesota Wild Assistant General Manager Tom Kurvers recorded 134 points (26-108=134) and 115 PIM in 192 games with New York in three seasons (1991-94) … Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson skated in 16 games with the Islanders in 1995-96 … D Jared Spurgeon was drafted by New York in the sixth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft (156th overall) … RW Cal Clutterbuck was selected by Minnesota in the third round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft (72nd overall) and collected 110 points and 1,457 hits in 346 contests with the Wild (2007-13) … Leddy is a native of Eden Prairie and was selected by the Wild in the first round (16th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft … Lee hails from Edina and C Brock Nelson is from Warroad.
FAST FACTS: The Wild is 6-3-0 in its past nine matches against the Islanders, outscoring New York 30-16 in the six wins … Eleven of the 24 all-time meetings with the Islanders have been decided by one goal (7-3-1).