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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Florida

Wild continues road trip with second of back-to-back games in Florida

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

Who: Minnesota Wild (42-17-6, 90 points, first place, Central Division) at Florida Panthers (29-25-11, 69 points, sixth place, Atlantic Division)

Puck drop: 6:38 p.m. CT

Watch: Fox Sports North Plus; FOX Sports Go;  Wild Watch Bar locationsNHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwildGameCenter


At the rink

Minnesota will try to avoid its first three-game regulation losing streak of the season when the Wild plays the second half of back-to-back games on Friday against the Florida Panthers.

The contest marks the second of a season-long five-game road trip.

The Wild dropped a 4-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lightning on the front half of the back-to-back at Amalie Arena on Thursday. 

For the second straight game, Minnesota struggled to get its offense going, not scoring until there was 3:58 remaining in regulation. The goal, by defenseman Marco Scandella, pulled the Wild to within 3-1. It also came out of the sequence with a power play and a chance to get even closer, but Minnesota was unable to capitalize, and Tampa Bay eventually added an empty-goal.

The Lightning, like the St. Louis Blues had 48 hours earlier, seemed to follow a similar road map; get off to a fast start, grab an early lead then allow very little in quality scoring chances the rest of the way.

To turn the tide, Minnesota will try and come out with its best effort right out of the gate against the Panthers, who having their own struggles as they cling to postseason contention in the Eastern Conference.

"We know we are a good team. We're on the road here ... we just gotta come out, and whether it be an ugly win, if that's what it's going to take, that's what it's going to take," said Wild forward Chris Stewart.

Minnesota has allowed the first goal in five of its past six games. The one game in which it did score first, last Sunday against the San Jose Sharks, was its best game during that stretch and one of its most complete efforts of the season.

"It's good to know we can come back, but I think we're a better hockey team when we're playing on our toes and playing with a lead," Stewart said. "We're a really tight checking team, good defensively and we have great goaltending, so if we go after that first one, I think it's beneficial for us."

The Wild will get defenseman Matt Dumba back in the lineup tonight after he missed the previous two games because of illness. Bruce Boudreau said he doesn't expect any other changes to the group.

Darcy Kuemper will start in goal against Florida's James Reimer.

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Chris Stewart - Eric Staal - Zach Parise

Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker

Nino Niederreiter - Martin Hanzal - Ryan White

Charlie Coyle - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba

Marco Scandella - Nate Prosser

Darcy Kuemper

Devan Dubnyk

PANTHERS

Reilly Smith - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Colton Sceviour

Thomas Vanek - Nick Bjugstad - Jonathan Marchessault

Jussi Jokinen - Derek MacKenzie - Denis Malgin

Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad

Mark Pysyk - Alex Petrovic

Michael Matheson - Jason Demers

James Reimer

Reto Berra


The opponent

Playing the final game of a three-game homestand on Friday, the Florida Panthers will try and snap a three-game losing streak. The Panthers have lost six of their past seven games overall, tumbling to sixth place in the Atlantic Division and six points behind the New York Islanders, who hold the second wild card position in the Eastern Conference. Florida is led offensively by Vincent Trocheck, whose 22 goals and 45 points are both team bests. Goaltender Roberto Luongo is nursing a lower-body injury, which means James Reimer is expected to get the start. Reimer is 3-1-0 in five career games against the Wild, posting a 0.48 goals against average and a .984 save percentage. 


Connections

• Panthers associate coach Dave Barr was an assistant with the Wild from 2009-11.

• Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad is from Blaine and played three seasons at the University of Minnesota.

• Panthers forward Thomas Vanek, another former Golden Gopher, scored 93 points in two seasons (154 games) with the Wild from 2014-16.


Call it a comeback

Minnesota has 16 come-from-behind victories in 65 games this season, after totaling nine comeback wins in 82 games last season. The Wild is 13-11-2 when its opponent scores first this season, the .500 win percentage ranking third in the NHL. Last season, Minnesota was last in the League with a .139 win percentage when its opponent netted the opening marker, posting a 5-25-6 record in those games.

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