The Wild knows the Chicago Blackhawks quite well. Playing against the same team 28 times over the past three seasons as Minnesota and Chicago have breeds familiarity.
So when the Wild faces the Blackhawks for the first time this season on Friday, despite some changes to the Blackhawks roster from this offseason, Minnesota knows it's going up against a team with a deep forward group, which makes the Wild's depth all the more paramount.
"It's not just on the defensemen, too," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "If you're going to have any kind of success against this team, you're going to have to defend as a group out there, and our forwards, how they play both with and without the puck, will be a huge factor in what our defensemen's games looks like at the end of the night.
"It's going to have to be a collective effort, that's for sure."
While Chicago traded away forwards Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad this summer, they added Artem Anisimov and rookie Artemi Panarin, and have Teuvo Teravainen regularly in the lineup.
"It's a tough team to play against," Jonas Brodin said. "They've got a lot of skilled players, and they've got some young players. They've got some speed. We have a good team, too, so it's going to be a good game tonight."
One of the keys against Chicago, according to Yeo, will be limiting its transition chances, a part of the game that the Blackhawks typically excel at.
"They've got guys in good position, and they force you to give the puck up, and you have to be disciplined with that," Yeo said. "It's a fine line because we have to be aggressive, we have to look for opportunities to go out and try to create offense against them, but it's a team that counter-punches very well."
These games though, besides putting key points in the Central Division on the line, are important for Minnesota for a number of reasons.
"What excites me is that it's another real good, tough challenge," Yeo said. "Any time you're able to come into these types of games, and play well, you're improving as a team, and that's our goal, and our main focus right now."
The Wild also knows an even-keel will could go along way in dictating the game's outcome.
"There's going to be a lot of emotion in the game based on what's happened in the past and last year, and a division rivalry," Yeo said. "The bottom line is that can help you, and that can hurt you, so our focus is on the only thing that really matters, and that's tonight, and even more specific is your next shift.
"Keeping that attitude throughout the game will be a big factor in whether we win or not."
PREGAME HAPPY HOUR
Start Friday's festivities a little earlier with our pre-game happy hour, from 4:45pm - 6:45pm, on top of the box office at Xcel Energy Center.
Two full bars will be serving Anheuser-Busch beers, liquor and Chankaska wine, as well as 20oz bottles of soda and water as you gear up for tonight’s match-up against the Chicago Blackhawks. Popcorn, chips, and candy will also be available for purchase.
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Nino Niederreiter
Zach Parise – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek – Charlie Coyle – Justin Fontaine
Chris Porter – Erik Haula – Ryan Carter
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Marco Scandella – Nate Prosser