Immediately following a road game in Winnipeg it’s back to work for the Canadiens, who will hit the ice in Minnesota less than 24 hours after the end of last night’s goal extravaganza versus the Jets.
It’s the second time the Wild and Habs will have looked across the ice at one another in less than a month - the Habs, of course, hoping that the result will change along with the venue, after falling 4-2 to the Wild at home in late December.
Should the Canadiens manage to overcome Minnesota this evening - no easy task as of late, as the Wild have lost just twice in their past sixteen games - they will once again need to do it without a number of important contributors. While the likes of Alex Galchenyuk and Andrei Markov may indeed be nearing a return, that return will need to wait at least until the weekend as no injured players have made the trip.
How to watch
Puck drop: 8:00 PM EST / 5:00 PM PST
In Canada: SNE (English), RDS (French)
In the United States: NBCSN
Elsewhere: NHL.tv/NHL Gamecenter Live, NHL Center Ice
Tale of the Tape
|53.17||Score-Adjusted Corsi %||49.82|
|1.41||5v5 Goal Ratio||1.43|
*Canadiens statistics do not include January 11 game vs. Winnipeg
An incredible performance in the month of December saw the Minnesota Wild shoot up the Central Division rankings, where they now battle with the Chicago Blackhawks for top spot. Just four points back in the race, the Wild have played five fewer games than have the Blackhawks, putting them in great position at the midway mark of the season.
The concern in Minnesota has to be whether or not the team can keep up this level of play down the stretch. Making the playoffs shouldn’t be too much trouble at this point, but the playoffs are a different animal, and the Wild have been winning games in a fashion that some might consider unsustainable.
With a PDO of 103.62, the Wild have been punching above their weight this season - and it’s not just because of Devan Dubnyk’s stellar year. That has certainly played a part, as Dubnyk is the reason the Wild boast the league’s best team save percentage, but it is not the only factor.
The Wild have been scoring on 10.62% of all shots, placing them third in the National Hockey League in that category. Should that number drop, there’s still probably not much cause for concern so long as Dubnyk can keep up his standard of play. Still, Minnesota hasn’t been particularly strong in terms of possession and should the bounces stop going their way, some weaknesses could be exposed.
Regardless, these are hypotheticals. Minnesota has, of late, been nearly unbeatable. With the likes of Mikko Koivu and Eric Staal heating up - they now have seven and six points respectively in the team’s past five games - the Wild have the scoring prowess to capitalize on the chances they are able to generate.
A win tonight, with a lineup still depleted, would be a major statement from the Canadiens. With Carey Price in their corner, the confidence will surely be there. On this night, however, Price will be engaged in a rare battle with a goaltender who has, this season, been even better.