Who: Minnesota Wild (17-14-2, 36 points, 5th in Western Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (16-12-6; 38 points, 4th in Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, FS-N and FS-Wi out in the mid west
Opponent Track: Minnesota enters tonight losers of two straight, including being shutout 4-0 by San Jose on Tuesday. Before that, they won two straight. Before that they lost two more in a row. They’re just an average, mediocre NHL team; capable of winning, capable of losing.
Pens Refresh: Grinding out a big win last night in DC, but what is left in the gas tank?
Season series: This is the first game of two this season, and the next game in Minny is coming up on New Years Eve. Poor Pens.
SBN Team Counterpart: Hockey Wilderness
Tale of the tape
Minnesota’s Corsi is middle of the road (16th in a 31 team league) and sits at 49.93%, almost exactly half for, half against. They’re just such a vanilla, middling team.
They’re not great at 5v5, with a 23rd ranked shooting percentage and their goalies haven’t been good at 25th in the league with just a 91.01 save %. They’ve made up for it by having a top-10 power play so far this season, and the league’s 2nd best penalty kill at an impressive 85.7%.
The Wild are without defenseman Matt Dumba which is a big loss. Things went south on them last game in a hurry, per HW:
Thing 2: 29 seconds of disaster
Remember that momentum I was talking about the Wild could build off of following that Pateryn fight? Well, it didn’t turn into anything but a 2 goal deficit for the Wild. Twenty-nine seconds apart, San Jose found themselves ahead 2-0 and the ‘packed house’ at Xcel was deathly quiet. First goal, nobody’s fault. Nothing you could do there. Second goal: how in the world do you let Pavelski get behind you? Like come on now. A great first down the drain after a bad 29 seconds. Also, I’m very curious to see how big this number will be at the end of the year - in 23 of the 33 games they have played the Wild have trailed 1-0, per Michael Russo of The Athletic.
Always falling behind 1-0 is a tough hole to climb out of, let’s see if the Pens can use last night’s emotion to start fast early and get out to a lead - looks like Minnesota is often in the hole.
Player stats at a glance
The most average and plain of all the average and plain teams. But six players are between 18 and 22 points all grouped together. No one really scares you, but they’re still deep enough to have some threats up and down the team.
Lines (from practice)
Jordan Greenway - Eric Staal - Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise - Charlie Coyle - Nino Niederreiter
Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Luke Kunin
Marcus Foligno - Joel Eriksson Ek - Eric Fehr
Ryan Suter / Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin / Greg Pateryn
Nick Seeler / Nate Prosser
—Oh hi there Eric Fehr, forgot you were still around.
And now for the Pens
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Lines (based off Wednesday game)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-Reese - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel
Tanner Pearson - Derick Brassard - Patric Hornqvist
Derek Grant - Matt Cullen - Riley Sheahan
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Olli Maatta / Juuso Riikola
Marcus Pettersson / Jack Johnson
Expected scratches: Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Jamie Oleksiak
Injured Reserve: Dominik Simon,
—We’ll just go ahead and pre-emptively move Oleksiak out of the lineup. Nothing official, but a “bell getting rung” by a fist in this day and age probably means a night off.
The Road Ahead
Just one more game until the Christmas break, the Pens hit the road after this one and go to Carolina to play Saturday night, then it’s four days off until Detroit comes to Pittsburgh a week from today on 12/27.