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Wild Hosts Canadiens With Season Sweep on its Mind

Minnesota won hard-fought contest three days before Christmas in Montreal

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Wild will try for a season sweep of one of the NHL's best teams when it hosts the Montreal Canadiens at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night.

The Wild defeated the Canadiens 4-2 at the Bell Centre on Dec. 22, getting a short-handed goal from Eric Staal early in the third period that ended up being the game winner. 

The game marks the first home game for Minnesota in 2017 after beginning the calendar year with three games on the West Coast. Minnesota hasn't played at home since a New Year's Eve tilt against the Columbus Blue Jackets, a game the Wild lost 4-2. The defeat snapped a 12-game winning streak for Minnesota.

But the Wild rebounded nicely in California, winning two of its three games there and capturing five out of six possible points there.

Perhaps most encouraging was how the Wild ended the trip. After allowing four goals per game in three consecutive contests, Minnesota surrendered just one in a 2-1 win over Anaheim to wrap the trip on Sunday. 

After the game, Minnesota heads back on the road for two games, including back-to-back games against Central Division rivals Dallas and Chicago this weekend, before returning home next Tuesday for a game against the New Jersey Devils, one that opens a four-game home stand.

Montreal will be playing the second half of back-to-back games following a 7-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. Backup goaltender Al Montoya earned the victory for the Canadiens, setting up a matchup between two of the best goalies in the League in St. Paul on Thursday, when Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk and Montreal's Carey Price go head-to-head.

Dubnyk got the best of the duel last time, making 32 saves in the win at Bell Centre.

"They're fast, they have Shea Weber on defense, who's one of the best in the world, and they've got one of the best goalies in the world," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "They've had a lot of injuries and they still only have 10 losses this year. They're in front in the Atlantic by a good margin, so it isn't gonna be easy."

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