Preview: Jets at Wild
The question now for the Minnesota Wild is can it build off a successful road trip entering Thursday’s home contest with the Winnipeg Jets. The Wild have struggled throughout the first half of the season but claimed six of a possible eight points on a four-game trip, and while the swing concluded with a 4-0 defeat Tuesday at Boston, Minnesota views victories at Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal as a potential jumping-off point with five of its next six games at home.
“Obviously, you’re disappointed with the result (Tuesday),” Wild forward Eric Staal told the media after Tuesday’s loss, concluding a trip that lifted Minnesota back into the Western Conference playoff race. “But we had some good wins this trip … we’ve got to take that home with us.” The Wild entered Wednesday holding the final wild-card spot, 11 points behind the conference-leading Jets, who have shaken off their offensive slumber with 12 goals in the past two games. Seven players scored in Tuesday’s 7-4 home victory over Colorado, sparked by four points from forward Blake Wheeler. “We love playing with each other and we had a few games where things weren’t going in for us,” Jets center Mark Scheifele told reporters afterward. “So, it was nice to see a few go in for us.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCS Network, TSN3 (Winnipeg)
ABOUT THE JETS (27-13-2): Wheeler recorded a goal and three assists against Colorado, and began Wednesday two assists off the league lead with 48. Forward Bryan Little has two goals and an assist in his past two games after a six-game pointless streak, and forward Kyle Connor also has goals in back-to-back games. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck will get the start Thursday after making 37 saves for his 19th win of the season, moving him into a tie for third in the NHL.
ABOUT THE WILD (21-18-3): Forward Zach Parise leads the Wild in goals with 19 (three in the past five games) and averages 18:21 of ice time - tops among Minnesota forwards. Alex Stalock made 23 saves against the Bruins, making his first start since Dec. 6 and giving Devan Dubnyk the night off after Minnesota’s 1-0 victory Monday at Montreal. The power play continues to struggle, going 0-for-3 on Tuesday, and has just one goal in 23 chances across their past 12 games.
1. Jets F Patrik Laine was tied for second in the NHL in power-play goals (11) entering Wednesday, but has one assist and a minus-3 rating in his past four contests.
2. Wild C Joel Eriksson Ek logged 13:16 of ice time Tuesday after being recalled from Iowa (AHL), replacing C Eric Fehr after he injured his head Monday.
3. Parise picked up two assists and Dubnyk made 26 saves in a 3-1 victory at Winnipeg on Dec. 29.
PREDICTION: Wild 5, Jets 4