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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Winnipeg

Wild concludes four-game road trip against division-rival Jets

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

Who: Minnesota Wild (34-12-5, 73 points, first place, Central Division) at Winnipeg Jets (25-26-4, 54 points, fifth place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 7:10 p.m. CT

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

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter

At the rink

The Minnesota Wild will finish a four-game road trip through Canada that has spanned the better part of a week and a half by making its season debut at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.

Minnesota will return to this arena -- one that has gained a reputation around League circles as one of the loudest in the NHL -- two more times over the next six weeks after today.

"This is always a tough building to play in," said Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon. "Their fans are loud and they get a lot of energy from them. I think the first 10 minutes is always big in this building, trying to weather the storm and come out with your game as well. We talked about it earlier, the neutral zone is going to be a big thing today, so we have to make sure we're sharp there."

In addition to the noise, which makes communicating difficult, the Jets play with an attacking, aggressive forecheck with a top-6 forward group that is big and fast.

"I think, maybe, they have the best top-6 that we've played against this year," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "It's something we really have to worry about in the checking department against those guys.

"They're big; they can skate. [Bryan] Little is back, we haven't seen both Little and [Mark] Scheifele in the lineup when we played them the first two games. ... That makes these guys really, really dangerous."

Video: Bruce Boudreau Pregame at Winnipeg

Minnesota is on the front end of back-to-back games on Tuesday; the Wild will return to St. Paul to open an eight-game homestand against the Chicago Blackhawks. The upcoming stretch on home ice is the longest in franchise history.

And while Chicago begins the day four points behind the Wild in the Central Division standings, Wild forward Mikael Granlund said the focus of the team has remained on the final game of the trip in a place that has been difficult for Minnesota through the years. The Wild has won just six of its 13 trips to Winnipeg.

"This is the last game of the road trip and we want to end it well," said Granlund, the NHL's No. 2 Star last week. "[After this], we 're going to be home for a while, so let's really get ready for this one. We all know it's a real good team over there, we gotta be on top of our game. After tonight, we'll go home, and let's think about Chicago after this one."

Video: Wild Pregame at Winnipeg

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Alex Tuch

Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter - Charlie Coyle - Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart - Erik Haula - Tyler Graovac

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Mike Reilly - Christian Folin

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

JETS

Nikolaj Ehlers - Bryan Little - Patrik Laine

Andrew Copp - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

Shawn Matthias - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia

Mathieu Perreault - Nicolas Petan - Drew Stafford

Josh Morrissey - Dustin Byfuglien

Tobias Enstrom - Jacob Trouba

Mark Stuart - Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec

Connor Hellebuyck


The opponent

The Winnipeg Jets are coming off one of their most disappointing losses of the season, a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday in Denver. Before that, the Jets were red-hot in divisional play, having won eight straight games against the Central dating back to the beginning of December. Winnipeg's last loss inside the division before Saturday was Nov. 23 in St. Paul, when the Wild defeated the Jets 3-1. Mark Scheifele leads the Jets with 25 goals and 53 points in 52 games this season. Rookie Patrik Laine has also been good, chipping in 23 goals in 47 games. Goaltender Andrej Pavelec has started seven of the past eight games since being recalled from Manitoba of the American Hockey League. He is 4-3-0 during that stretch, with a 3.34 goals-against average and a .895 save percentage.


Connections

• Wild assistant coach John Anderson spent two seasons as head coach of the Atlanta Thrashers from 2008-10 before the franchise relocated to Winnipeg. 

• The Jets have three Minnesota natives on their roster, including captain Blake Wheeler (Plymouth) and defensemen Dustin Byfuglien (Roseau) and Mark Stuart (Rochester).


Learn to fly

Minnesota has won both games against the Jets this season, marking the first time it has won two straight games against Winnipeg in a single season since 2013-14. The Wild has earned points in 12 of its last 18 meetings with Winnipeg (9-6-3). Eight of the last 13 meetings between the Wild and Jets have been decided by one goal - three in overtime and none in a shootout.

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