Who: Minnesota Wild (44-23-10, 98 points, 3rd place Central Division) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (38-30-10, 86 points, 5th place Metropolitan Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in Pittsburgh, Bally Sports Wisconsin and North, Sportsnet in Canada, ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Wild were clicking on a three-game winning streak last week before a recent home-and-home with Vegas went south for Minnesota to the tune of an 0-1-1 record, including a shootout loss on Monday in their last game out. Overall, the Wild are in a very close three-way dance with Colorado and Dallas for first place in the Central - all three teams are qualified for the playoffs and all have 98 points. Two will play each other in the first round, one will win the division and get a Wild Card foe, so this game carries significant importance for Minnesota’s playoff tracking.
Pens Path Ahead: Up next is a Saturday afternoon road game for Pittsburgh over in Detroit, followed by two days off. Then next week is the final week of the regular season, which will see the Pens play at home against Chicago next Tuesday and wrap things up on the road against Columbus a week from today.
Season Series: The two out-of-conference foes had their first meeting of the season way back on November 17th. The Pens skated out of Minnesota with a 6-4 win that night on the strength of Sidney Crosby’s four-point (2G+2A) game. It was Filip Gustavsson in net for the Wild.
Hidden Stat: Tonight Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to make his fourth career start in Pittsburgh as a visiting goalie. He’s 1-2-0 in the first three games- the one win was via shutout but it was a quick hook after giving up two goals on six shots in his last appearance in Pittsburgh.
Here are the breakout stats of Fleury vs. the Pens over the years:
VGK (2017-21): 3-2-0, .910 save%, 2.63 GAA, 1 shutout (1-1-0, .925 save%, 1 shutout playing IN Pittsburgh)
CHI (2021-22): 1-1-0, .889 save%, 4.72 GAA (0-1-0, .600 save% pulled after 21 minutes in his appearance in Pittsburgh)
MIN (2022-23): none before today
Getting to know the Wild
A stick tap to our good friends at: Hockey Wilderness (in the process of getting their domain and new site together, best of luck to Thomas and the crew!)
Potential Game Lines
Sam Steel - Ryan Hartman - Mats Zuccarello
Marcus Johansson - Joel Eriksson Ek - Matt Boldy
Marcus Foligno - Frederik Gaudreau - Oskar Sundqvist
Brandon Duhaime - Connor Dewar - Ryan Reaves
Jacob Middleton / Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin / Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill /John Klingberg
Goalies: Marc-Andre Fleury (Filip Gustavsson)
Scratches: Kirill Kaprizov (injured), Mason Shaw (out for season), Calen Addison, Alex Goligoski
IR: Gustav Nyquist
—As mentioned above, yesterday Wild coach Dean Evason named Marc-Andre Fleury as the starter for this game tonight.
—Kaprizov is back on the ice skating, but luckily for the Penguins, the Wild’s leading scorer will not return to playing in games until at least this weekend. Kaprizov has been out since March 8th, but Minnesota has hung tough with 7-2-3 record without their leading scorer.
—Operating with a $12 million handcuff this year on the Ryan Suter/Zach Parise buyouts, Bill Guerin put a lot of interesting touches on this lineup. Since the season has started, Minnesota has acquired Reaves, Johansson, the injured Nyquist, Sundqvist and Klingberg - while having to part ways with Jordan Greenway. A lot of little moves to boost depth, but interesting to watch Guerin cook from afar and be one of the most active GM’s (including being the third team in the Orlov/O’Reilly trades).
—The Wild have a distinctly Penguin flavor. Starting with Fleury but also Gustavsson was a Penguin draft pick, Gaudreau, Reaves, Sundqvist, Addison and Goligoski all have Pittsburgh ties.
—Addison really looks like he’s in the doghouse now, having only played three games in the last month and settling in on the outskirts of the lineup as a frequent healthy scratch. The addition of Klingberg makes Addison’s presence more luxury than necessity at this point as he goes through some rookie trials and tribulations.
—Since the All-Star break, Gustavsson has started 16 games to Fleury’s 13. Over the last 16 games, it’s an even 8/8 split for the goalies getting the crease. It’ll be interesting to see which goalie takes the reigns come playoff time. Gustavsson has been too good not to play as of late (.942% save% in those last 16 starts) but Fleury’s vast playoff experience gives Minnesota a good problem to have with two very capable looking options to turn towards.
—Boldy has been the rising star in Minnesota, the second year player has popped off for 30G+30A and leads the Wild with 24 points (14G+10A) in the 29 games since the All-Star break. Guerin has already made a move to lock the 22-year old up to a seven-year contract starting next season that will carry a $7.0 million cap hit and should give the Wild solid value over his prime scoring seasons that lie ahead.
—Somewhat quietly, Johansson has been one of the NHL’s best trade deadline pickups with 13 points in 16 games since re-joining Minnesota. At only the cost of a 2024 third round pick, that was another nice piece of business by Guerin to augment the team with a productive, versatile supporting piece who can play a variety of positions and roles on a team.
—Minnesota suffered a tough blow in the loss of role player Mason Shaw in the last week. Shaw tore an ACL for the fourth time (and second in his right knee) as the 24-year old was really starting to find a niche in a lower line role adding speed and energy to the team.
And now for the Pens...
Tuesday Game Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Jason Zucker - Evgeni Malkin - Rickard Rakell
Danton Heinen - Ryan Poehling - Mikael Granlund
Drew O’Connor - Jeff Carter - Josh Archibald
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
P.O. Joseph / Jeff Petry
Mark Friedman / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalies: Tristan Jarry, Casey DeSmith
Scratches: Jan Rutta (injured)
LTIR: Dmitry Kulikov (lower-body injury), Nick Bonino (lacerated kidney), Marcus Pettersson (lower body)
—The Penguins were off yesterday, so we’ll see at today’s morning skate if they have any changes or returns. Pettersson is ineligible to return from the long-term IR until the tail end of the season and will likely be the furthest of the four injured players to return.
—All four have been skating recently and were said by Mike Sullivan to be progressing and all expected back prior to the end of the season, though it is unknown if any will be making a return to the lineup tonight. Bonino is eligible to return from LTIR when healthy, Kulikov’s window to return from LTIR opens today and Rutta was never on LTIR and can return once healthy.