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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. Washington

Wild and Capitals clash for second time this month

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

Who: Washington Capitals (49-17-8, 106 points, first place, Metropolitan Division) at Minnesota Wild (44-24-7, 95 points, second place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 7:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; NHL Network (out of market); FOX Sports GoWild Watch Bar locationsNHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

The Minnesota Wild didn't win in Detroit on Sunday, but it feels it took a step in the right direction. 

During what has been a tough stretch this month, it's those kinds of positives that provide the club something to build on when it plays the NHL's best team, the Washington Capitals, on Tuesday.

Minnesota allowed just 19 shots Sunday against the Red Wings, a blueprint that would be a good one to follow versus the explosive Capitals, who have threats up and down the lineup.

"Detroit is a little different team than Washington. If you can hold Washington under 20 shots, you're doing a tremendous job," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "But I don't think shots on goal has been the problem. I think in the last 13 games, we've averaged 24 against, which is pretty good. But it's something we want to continually work on."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Pregame vs. Capitals

In addition to its effort in the defensive zone, the Wild also looked more engaged in its game against the Red Wings, making smarter, simpler plays like the ones that were a hallmark when Minnesota was playing its best earlier this season.

The Wild turned the puck over less and did a better job of getting pucks into its offensive zone and out of its defensive end.

"Our compete level was better," said Wild forward Nino Niederreiter. "I think we played a more simple style of game and played faster."

Against Washington, those aspects of the game will be under the microscope again. 

"Everything is magnified," Boudreau said. "From retrieving the puck, to protecting the middle of the ice, to blocking out. Everything is magnified because they have four lines that can score, defensemen that move the puck and a goalie that's really good."

Boudreau also challenged his team to look at the game Tuesday as an opportunity. Grab two points against the best in the League, and the positive vibe extends into practice tomorrow and hopefully into the game Thursday against Ottawa.

"We know how they play. They're a really good team with a good chance to win the Eastern Conference," Niederreiter said. "They're a highly skilled team that knows how to put pucks in the net. 

"At the end of the day, it's going to be a real good test for us tonight."

Video: Morning Skate before facing Capitals

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle

Nino Niederreiter - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Jason Zucker - Martin Hanzal - Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart - Erik Haula - Ryan White

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin - Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper


CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Justin Williams

Brett Connolly - Lars Eller - Andre Burakovsky

Daniel Winnik - Jay Beagle - Tom Wilson

Karl Alzner - John Carlson

Dmitri Orlov - Matt Niskanen

Brooks Orpik - Kevin Shattenkirk

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer


The opponent

Locked in a battle with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Metropolitan Division, the Washington Capitals begin the day Tuesday three points clear of both for the top spot in the NHL. The Chicago Blackhawks also trail the Capitals by three in the race for the President's Trophy. Washington is riding a six-game point streak that began two weeks ago with a 4-2 win over the Wild at the Verizon Center. The Capitals have won five of those games, including each of their past four. The game in St. Paul marks the beginning of a five-game road trip for the Caps, one that continues to Colorado, Arizona, Columbus and Toronto over the next seven days.


Connections

• Wild coach Bruce Boudreau served as the Cap­itals' head coach in parts of five seasons (2007-11), compiling a 201-88-40 record and winning the Southeast Division four times and the 2008 Jack Adams Award.

• Wild assistant coach Scott Stevens was drafted in the first round (fifth overall) by Washington in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft. He collected 429 points (98-331=429) in 601 games during eight seasons with the Capitals from 1982-90.

• Wild goaltending coach Bob Mason went 35-29-7 in 76 games for the Capitals in five seasons (1983-87, 1989-90).

• Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen is a native of Virginia, Minnesota and played at the Uni­versity of Minnesota Duluth (2005-07).

• Capitals forward T.J. Oshie played high school hockey in Warroad and collegiately at the University of North Dakota.

• Capitals defenseman Nate Schmidt hails from St. Cloud and played at the University of Minnesota (2010-13).


Home-ice advantage

The Wild has outscored its opponents 120-82 on home ice this season, including 29 power-play goals. Minnesota leads the NHL with a 28.2 percent success rate (29-for-103) on the power play at home, scoring 18 power-play goals in its past 21 games in St. Paul. Minnesota saw a stretch of not allowing a power-play goal on home ice end Saturday after 12 games but still ranks second in the NHL with an 87.5 percent success rate (74-for-85) on the penalty kill on home ice.

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