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Game Preview #29 - One Measly Point Ya Bums

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Hey, it's the Wild. I still think we'd have given Chicago a tougher series. Oh, wait, that was last season.

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Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sport

Minnesota Wild at Columbus Blue Jackets

December 6, 2013 - 7:00pm EST
Nationwide Arena - Columbus, Ohio
Radio - WBNS 97.1 - TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponents Blog: Hockey Wilderness
SBN's Wild vs. Blue Jackets coverage
Tickets

First and foremost, if the weather gets as bad as they say it's going to, everyone be careful out there tonight on your way to and from the game (or wherever you might be headed...).

Well, Game 1 of "No Bob" begins tonight, as the Wild come to visit. It's the first time these teams will play in the post "hey we lost a tie-breaker to you jabronis because, in part, we let you tie us late in the third and take us to a shootout in that game in mid-April" world. I know that has literally no bearing on this game on paper, but I have to wonder if it factors into the mindset of the Jackets at all.

At any rate, the Wild are off to a very good start despite playing in a very tough division, and their top line has been flat-out devastating. When you look at their team scoring/game stats, they're pretty low in the league--lower than Columbus, even. But, consider this: the Wild have scored 71 goals on the season, and the combination of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, and Jason Pominville have scored 32 of them (45%). Parise has 14, Pominville 12, and Koivu six. Two other guys also have six, but those three are the de facto top three scorers for the Wild. By way of comparison, the Jackets have scored 67 total goals, and their top three scorers have just 24 of them (35.8%).

It's not as easy as saying "shut down their top line and you should win," because the Wild are playing solid defense as well. That said, keeping those three contained will be a big portion of the formula for winning for Columbus. The other portion of that offensive oddity for Minnesota is that the Wild's PP unit is (not surprisingly, given the above) very strong; 21 of their 71 goals have come on the Power Play (29.6%, slightly above Columbus's 28.4%). That said, both teams have good Power Play percentages, and both are struggling on the PK overall. So, Columbus will need to capitalize on their PP chances, and also be disciplined and stay out of the box as much as possible.

Finally, Minnesota played last night in a different time zone. Since Josh Harding played last night, it's likely that Niklas Backstrom--he of the career 2.11 gaa and .925 save% in 19 games against Columbus--will get the start. As Jeff noted yesterday, the Jackets need to capitalize on speed and possession, and they should have more legs early than the Wild. Columbus also welcomes Derek MacKenzie back to the lineup, and Jack Skille will sit. I would have sat Corey Tropp, but that's just me: Skille has shown speed and some ability to finish in limited duty.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(11-14-3, 25 Points; 7th division, 13th conference)

Nick Foligno Ryan Johansen R.J. Umberger
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Boone Jenner Artem Anisimov Blake Comeau
Derek MacKenzie Mark Letestu Corey Tropp
Fedor Tyutin Jack Johnson
Ryan Murray James Wisniewski
Nikita Nikitin Dalton Prout
Curtis McElhinney
Mike McKenna

Minnesota Wild
(17-8-5, 39 Points; 3rd Division, 6th Conference)

Zach Parise Mikko Koivu Jason Pominville
Nino Niederreiter Charlie Coyle Dany Heatley
Matt Cooke Kyle Brodziak Torrey Mitchell
Mike Rupp Erik Haula Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella Jared Spurgeon
Keith Ballard Clayton Stoner
Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding

Season Series

12/06/13 - Minnesota at Columbus
03/15/14 - Columbus at Minnesota

Head to Head Stats

Minnesota
Columbus
2.37 (23) GPG 2.39 (22)
2.20 (4) GAPG 2.82 (22)
21.6% (6) PP% 20.2% (10)
78.4% (25) PK% 79.6% (22)
Jason Pominville, 14 G leader Ryan Johansen, 10
Mikko Koivu, 17 A leader James Wisniewski, 16
Zach Parise, 24 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 20
Zenon Konopka, 37 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky, 40
5-5-3 Road/Home 6-7-1
12/5 vs. Chicago, W 4-3 Last Game 12/3 vs. Tampa Bay, W 1-0
5-4-1 Last 10 5-4-1