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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. New Jersey

Wild opens four-game homestand on Tuesday with game against Devils

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

Who: New Jersey Devils (18-18-9, 45 points, seventh place, Metropolitan Division) at Minnesota Wild (28-9-5, 61 points, first place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 7:08 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

On the tail end of a four-game, seven-day road trip, the New Jersey Devils have won each of their past two games by a 2-1 margin, edging the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks over the weekend. New Jersey had lost four straight games before the trip but captured five of a possible six points in three games through western Canada. Taylor Hall and Travis Zajac lead the Devils in scoring with 28 points apiece. P.A. Parenteau has a team-leading 12 goals. 


Connections

• Wild assistant coach Scott Stevens played in 956 games with the Devils between 1991 and 2004, helping New Jersey to three Stanley Cups during that span. Stevens ranks among the club's all-time leaders in games played, shots on goal, penalty minutes, assists and points and is first in career plus-minus (plus-282). His jersey number four is one of four retired by the Devils.

• Wild forward Zach Parise was picked 17th overall by the Devils in the 2003 NHL Draft and played his first seven NHL seasons with New Jersey. He scored 194 goals and 410 points in 502 games before signing with the Wild in 2012.


Comeback Kids

Including Sunday night's 3-2 win in Chicago, Minnesota has 13 come-from-behind victories in 42 games this season, after totaling nine comeback wins in 82 games last season. The Wild is 11-5-1 when its opponent scores first this season, the .647 win percentage leading the NHL. Last season, Minnesota was last in the NHL with a .139 win percentage when its opponent netted the opening marker, posting a 5-25-6 record in those games.

Video: Wild Pregame vs New Jersey


At the Rink

There is no way to accurately describe how different the Minnesota Wild is than it was when it dropped a 2-1 overtime game to the New Jersey Devils in their first matchup at Prudential Center on Oct. 22.

Joel Eriksson Ek scored his first NHL goal in that game for the Wild, but was long ago shuttled back to Sweden for additional seasoning. 

But more than the normal roster shuffling that occurs during a typical NHL season, the Wild has a completely different mindset now that it has gained a firm grasp of what coach Bruce Boudreau wants. 

Minnesota was still trying to find its way. The following night, the Wild would lost 6-3 to the New York Islanders, the last time until New Year's Eve it would lose a game by more than one goal. 

Since that game, the Wild has a 25-8-4 record and has climbed to the top of the Western Conference standings

"So much has changed," said Wild defenseman Matt Dumba. "We've grown so much as a team and hopefully we can show that tonight by playing a really solid game at home."

Minnesota has posted a 5-0-1 record in six games since its 12-game winning streak was snapped by the Blue Jackets in the final game of 2016. A daunting schedule followed, including a trip to the West Coast, one home game against Atlantic Division-leading Montreal followed by back-to-back games against division rivals Dallas and Chicago.

Knowing the magnitude of those contests, it made it for easy motivation to get up for each game.

Now with home dates against New Jersey and Arizona -- two teams currently not in the postseason picture -- following, and without the animosity of the previous clubs, the challenge will be different but equally as testing.

"Good teams do that; you find a way to make sure you keep the level high and the game high and the intensity there," said Wild forward Eric Staal. "We have a good stretch of games here until the All-Star break, so we need keep our foot on the gas until then. Then we get a couple days to regroup and refresh."

Boudreau said he knows the Wild can't afford to take any games off, no matter who the opponent is.

"These guys are playing well. If we have a letdown, we're in trouble," Boudreau said. "In this League, if you don't play at the top of your game all the time, the team you're playing is going to beat you."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Pregame vs New Jersey

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle

Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart - Tyler Graovac - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Christian Folin

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

DEVILS

Taylor Hall - Adam Henrique - P.A. Parenteau

Michael Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri

Jacob Josefson - Pavel Zacha - Beau Bennett

Miles Wood - Blake Coleman - Devante Smith-Pelly

Jon Merrill - Ben Lovejoy 

Kyle Quincey - Damon Severson

Karl Stollery - Steven Santini

Cory Schneider

Keith Kinkaid

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