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Game #79: Minnesota Wild at Winnipeg Jets, Monday 4-7-14, MTS Centre

Minnesota Wild (40-26-12)  92pts  4th in the Central

2.41 Goals For (26th)

2.38 Goals Against (6th)

18% Power Play (16th)

79.4% Penalty Kill (27th)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #29 Jason Pominville ~ 27G 27A = 54pts

2. #11 Zach Parise ~ 28G 25A = 53pts

3. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 11G 39A = 50pts

4. #26 Matt Moulson ~ 22G 26A = 48pts

5. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 7G 35A = 42pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #21 Kyle Brodziak ~ 61 PIM’s

2. #39 Nate Prosser ~ 56 PIM’s

3. #24 Matt Cooke ~ 54 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #35 Darcy Kuemper (12-8-4)  2.43GAA  .915%SP  2SO

2. #30 Ilya Bryzgalov (10-8-8)  2.66GAA  .911%SP  3SO

 

 

Vs.

 

 

Winnipeg Jets (35-34-10)  80pts  7th in the Central

2.70 Goals For (15th)

2.86 Goals Against (22nd)

15.9% Power Play (23rd)

83.2% Penalty Kill (11th)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #26 Blake Wheeler ~ 27G 40A = 67pts

2. #18 Bryan Little ~ 23G 40A = 63pts

3. #33 Dustin Byfuglien ~ 20G 36A = 56pts

4. #16 Andrew Ladd ~ 23G 31A = 54pts

5. #12 Olli Jokinen ~ 18G 24A = 42pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #5 Mark Stuart ~ 93 PIM’s

2. #33 Dustin Byfuglien ~ 86 PIM’s

3. #9 Evander Kane ~ 66 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #31 Ondrej Pavelec (22-26-7)  3.01GAA  .901%SP  1SO

2. #35 Al Montoya (13-8-3)  2.30GAA  .920%SP  2SO

Mikko Koivu roofs a backhander over the shoulder of Ondrej Pavelec

Like many fans, I was very happy with the result from Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Yes, I will readily admit that it looked like Pittsburgh, who has a guaranteed playoff appearance, played as if they didn’t care about the game.  Those kinds of opponents as well as those who are out of the playoff picture can be very dangerous for the Minnesota Wild.  They have a very bad habit of playing to the level of their opponent.  Now the Penguins had their moments where they tried to take the game, Minnesota however continued to push back.  Not only did they push back, they continued to create offense.  That is when you know that the team is invested in the game and in winning.

There’s a great story in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune about two unlikely players who played a large role in Saturday’s win.  Those two players being Stephanne Veilleux and Cody McCormick.  It’s not often that not just one, but two, fourth liners are featured in the same article.  These are two men who didn’t know what was going to become of their professional hockey careers, and from the gist of the article, I think they were expecting to remain in the minor leagues.  Plus, in the case of Veilleux, this is his second stint with Minnesota.  Personally, I am glad that the Wild brought Veilleux back.  He’s the kind of player who is going to get that dirty goal, and also isn’t afraid to go into the corners where things get physical.  In McCormick’s case, he’s been in a greater roller coaster ride.  He came as a package deal with Matt Moulson from Buffalo.  It’s not every day you go from the worst team in the league to a team in the playoff race.  What I love about players like Veilleux and McCormick, is that they know their place on their teams.  They’re ready to play when asked and they know and embrace their role.  They’re never going to log big minutes, but they’re not going to pout over their lack of minutes or for being scratched or reassigned on a regular basis.  However, after the liberties taken by Los Angeles and Chicago, it became evident that the fourth line needed their grit.  And being teamed up with Nino Niederreiter, it’s a line that can, and has demonstrated, and will score.  Usually no one will envy a team’s fourth line, but this could be one that can do some damage, either physically or on the scoreboard.  Hopefully, this will now keep Dany Heatley off of the ice.

This season, the Wild are 3-1 against the Jets.  Minnesota won the first three games.  However, it’s the most recent match-up that still has me annoyed.  I suggest if your memory is a bit foggy, you pull up the box-score from that December 27th game.  After the first period, the Wild were behind 4-3.  Yes, seven goals in one period.  What’s different about that game as to what we’ve seen recently, is that Minnesota failed to fight back in the third period.  All of Minnesota’s four goals in that game came in the first and second periods.  Oh, and Veilleux had a goal in that game as well.  Now, Minnesota absolutely cannot afford to play the Winnipeg team who currently holds the last place spot in the Central Division.  In their last ten games, the Jets are 4-5-1.  That is the sign of a non-playoff team that isn’t about to be a doormat to those who are going.  They’re going to continue to fight, and make thing uncomfortable for the rest of us.  Including tonight’s game, Winnipeg has three games remaining.  After our game, they meet the Bruins and Calgary.  In their previous ten games, they’ve been playing close games.  The most goals they’ve lost by is two, and those games were against St. Louis, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.  Winnipeg is not a team to take lightly.  We cannot afford to play like the Penguins did against us.  If Minnesota does, it’s going to be an ugly game that the Wild deserve to lose.

This is definitely a dangerous last road game of the regular season.  Now is not the time to take the foot of the gas.  If the Wild can withstand this test tonight, they will make the playoffs, and could possibly get through the first round.  But all of that requires consistent effort and determination.

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