CALGARY – For how well the Minnesota Wild has played at even-strength of late, and how much the Calgary Flames' games have been decided on special teams, there's no secret to how many players the Wild would like to be on the ice on Wednesday.
"No matter who you're playing against, you want to make sure you're staying out of the box," Jason Zucker said. "If we can stay at one or two penalties a night, you're going to have a higher success level."
The Flames have scored six power-play goals in their past three games, with two, three-goal games on its power play.
But Calgary has also allowed three power-play goals in each of its past three games, and 10 overall in its past four.
"I don't want to see that many penalty kills," Head Coach John Torchetti said. "I'd still like to be around two or three, and I know the team has the discipline to do that moving forward."
When the Wild has found itself in the penalty box more frequently this season, success has not followed. Minnesota is 2-8-3 in games it has had to kill four or more penalties. One of those victories came on Tuesday when the Wild defeated the Canucks 5-2 despite going 2-for-4 on the PK.
Special teams have also been trending in different directions for the Wild the past month. Minnesota has scored a power-play goal in eight of its past 10 games, going eight-for-38 over that stretch, or 21 percent.
But on the penalty kill, the Wild has allowed eight goals in its seven games since the All-Star break, including two goals in two of its past three.
What this all amounts to is a matchup on Wednesday the Wild feels it would be best served playing five-on-five. The Wild has a shot-attempts percentage of 56.2 over its past five games, and has had the better of play at even-strength.
"We're just doing the right things away from the puck, and with the puck," Zucker said. "Just making sure that we're working hard, and getting the puck in deep when we need to, and getting back when we need to."
With how well things are going at five-on-five, taking penalties can also disrupt the pressure the Wild establishes. Against the Canucks, the Wild committed three minor penalties during the second period, which Torchetti said derailed Minnesota's momentum.
"It gets a lot of guys out of the flow of the game," Zucker said. "There are a few guys that don't kill penalties.
"[Torchetti] did a good job last game of getting everybody into it as far as guys that didn't kill, but still, you're not playing with the same guys, and your rhythm is a little bit off. Staying out of the box certainly helps everybody."
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker – Mikael Granlund – Thomas Vanek
Nino Niederreiter – Erik Haula – Jason Pominville
Ryan Carter – Jarret Stoll – Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella – Matt Dumba
Christian Folin – Mike Reilly