Who: Montreal Canadiens (26-10-6, 58 points, first place, Atlantic Division) at Minnesota Wild (25-9-5, 55 points, second place, Central Division)
Puck drop: 7:00 p.m. CT
Watch: NBCSN; Wild Watch Bar Locations; NHL.TV
Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM
Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter
The Montreal Canadiens 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.
• Wild defenseman Marco Scandella is a native of Montreal.
• Wild forward Jason Pominville is from Repentigny, Quebec, just outside Montreal.
• Canadiens forward Torrey Mitchell scored five goals and had 17 points in 103 games over two seasons with Minnesota 2012-14.
Home Sweet Home
Minnesota returns to Xcel Energy Center for its first home game of 2017. The Wild is 13-4-0 in Saint Paul this season, including an eight-game home win streak (Nov. 23-Dec. 31) that tied the franchise record for longest win streak on home ice. Minnesota has earned points in 10 straight road games (8-0-2), the second-longest road point streak in franchise history.
At the Rink
The Minnesota Wild will try for a season sweep of the Canadiens tonight at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild defeated the Canadiens 4-2 a few days before Christmas, powered by a short-handed goal by Eric Staal early in the third period that gave Minnesota a 3-2 lead.
With two of the best goaltenders in the NHL expected to get the nod tonight, that will put special teams front and center once again.
"It's huge every game, and when you're playing good teams, it becomes even more important," Staal said. "If we end up short or on the power play, we need to make sure we are executing properly and if we can, stay out of the box."
Both goalies faced a mountain of hype the last time these two teams met. Facing the expectations of a low-scoring game, the teams combined for five goals with each netminder present (Minnesota added a late empty netter to ice the game).
"A lot of build up," Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk said when asked about what he remembered about the game in December.
And while the chatter isn't the same this time -- Montreal won 7-4 last night in Winnipeg, capping the build-up to the contest -- a low-scoring game is still expected.
"With the way both teams play, especially with how many goals were scored up there in Winnipeg, I'm sure they're going to try and bear down a little bit more defensively," Staal said. "And when you add Carey Price back there, usually it changes things.
"We just need to play our game, be strong defensively. Both goaltenders are having great years, so when you get your opportunities, you need to cash in."
Here are the projected lineups:
Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville
Chris Stewart - Tyler Graovac - Kurtis Gabriel
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Christian Folin
Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba
Max Pacioretty - Phillip Danault - Alexander Radulov
Artturi Lehkonen - Tomas Plekanec - Paul Byron
Sven Andrighetto - Torrey Mitchell - Brian Flynn
Daniel Carr - Michael McCarron - Nikita Scherbak
Alexei Emelin - Shea Weber
Nathan Beaulieu - Jeff Petry
Mark Barberio - Ryan Johnston