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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. Columbus

Historic streaks on the line as Wild hosts Blue Jackets

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com
The Essentials

Who: Columbus Blue Jackets (25-5-4, 54 points, first place, Metropolitan Division) at Minnesota Wild (23-8-4, 50 points, second place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 5:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports GOWild Watch Bar Locations; NHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


The Opponent

Riding the fifth-longest winning streak in NHL history, the Columbus Blue Jackets come to St. Paul having won 14 consecutive games. Their 54 points are the most in the NHL while their five losses in regulation are fewest. Columbus also has the NHL's top power play, converting at 28 percent. Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky leads the League with 23 wins while captain Nick Foligno has been surging lately, scoring eight points over his past four games.


Making History

Columbus (14 straight wins) and Minnesota (12 straight wins) hold the longest win streaks in the NHL, joining Philadelphia (10 games) as the only teams to post double-digit win streaks this season. Per Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time in NHL history two teams have concurrent win streaks of at least 12 games. The New Year's Eve matchup marks the first time two NHL teams play while each holding win streaks of at least seven games. It also marks the first time in the history of the four major leagues - NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL - that two teams meet with win streaks of at least 12 games. Minnesota or Columbus will end 2016 with the NHL record for longest win streak to end a calendar year, topping the current record of 10 games (Boston, 1929).


At the Rink

It's tough to make too big of a deal between inter-conference foes in December, but Saturday's game is dripping with history (see above). One team's month-long winning streak will come to an end tonight, while another's will continue into 2017.

The Wild has maintained its game-by-game approach. Even after surpassing the franchise record last week in New York, players and coaches have refused to take the bait. After a win in Nashville following the Christmas holiday, it would have been easy to lose focus against the New York Islanders on Thursday, especially with a potential history-making game on New Year's Eve.

Despite not playing its best game in either of the two games since the holiday break, Minnesota has found ways to win both and keep its streak intact.

"Before last game, we were thinking about it. Then it happened that we both continued to win and now we're here," said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. "It's an exciting game, it's New Year's Eve, so it will be a lot of fun. Whether it was two streaking teams going at it or not, it was going to be a big game."

Video: Ryan Suter Pregame vs. Columbus

Both clubs rank among the NHL leaders in goals per game and goals against per game. Columbus has the League's best power play while Minnesota has a penalty kill that ranks among the top five and has been outstanding over the past 12 games. 

Between Bobrovsky and Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk, the two may rank 1-2 in early Vezina Trophy balloting as the season approaches the halfway point. It's quite likely that one of those two will have a major say in which club continues its winning streak on Saturday.

"When things don't go well -- and at some stage in the game, things don't go well for every team," Boudreau said. "When you have the goalie there to bail you out, it's a big plus."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Pregame vs. Columbus

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Charlie Coyle

Chris Stewart - Tyler Graovac - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba

Marco Scandella - Christian Folin

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

BLUE JACKETS

Brandon Saad - Alexander Wennberg - Nick Foligno

Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Matt Calvert - William Karlsson - Josh Anderson

Scott Hartnell - Lukas Sedlak - Sam Gagner

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Jack Johnson - David Savard

Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney 

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