Game Preview: Into The Wild: Washington Capitals vs. Minnesota Wild

The Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild meet for the second and final time this season when they play at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Thursday night. The Capitals beat the Wild 3-1 the first time these two teams met back on November 18 at Capital One Arena. 

Washington Capitals
The Capitals play the second game of a season-long four-game road trip and start their annual fathers and mentors’ trip in Minnesota. The father’s trip will close out when the Capitals visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

The Capitals started their road trip in Winnipeg on Tuesday night and saw a 3-1 lead in the third period evaporate. After falling behind 1-0 in the first period, Nicklas Backstrom tied it with 22 seconds left in the period. The goal marked Backstrom’s fourth in the last five games. Andre Burakovsky scored his fifth of the year and John Carlson scored his 10th in the loss. Jets’ center Mark Scheifele tied the game with 15 seconds left and assisted on the game-winning goal when defenseman Tyler Myers ended it 2:35 into overtime.

Tuesday’s loss marked the fourth consecutive game where the Capitals tallied a point (2-0-2) but it also marked the second game they dropped in overtime. The Capitals have a three-point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins, who beat the Ottawa Senators 6-3 at PPG Paints Arena on Tuesday night, but have two games in hand on the Penguins. The Penguins host the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.

The Capitals have won seven straight meetings against the Wild and have won their last three visits to Xcel Energy Center after starting 0-6-1 all-time in Minnesota. In his past three games at Xcel Energy Center, Alex Ovechkin has eight goals and an assist. He has tallied hat tricks in back-to-back visits to the State of Hockey going into Thursday’s tilt. He leads the Capitals with 33 goals, which also leads the NHL, and 61 points this season.

Braden Holtby will start for the Capitals. He is 28-10-4 on the season with a .913 save percentage and a 2.82 goals against average. Holtby has been in net for every game in Washington’s six-game winning streak against Minnesota. In 10 career outings against the Wild, he is 8-2-0 with a .922 save percentage and a 2.28 goals against average. He stopped 40 shots of the 44 that came his way on Tuesday in Winnipeg.

Minnesota Wild
The Wild play the fourth game of a five-game homestand against the Capitals. Since getting blown out against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on February 3, the Wild have won four straight and are riding a five-game point streak.

The Wild have been red-hot as of late, going 7-2-1 in their past 10 games, propelling them three points ahead of the Kings for the second wild card spot in the west. In addition to that, they have a home record of 20-4-5. The Edmonton Oilers were the last team to beat the Wild on home ice in regulation back on December 16. Since then, the Wild are 10-0-3 on home ice.

After recording 13 goals and 39 points in 83 games with the Carolina Hurricanes and Rangers in 2015-16, center Eric Staal has found a home in Minnesota. He followed up his renaissance season last year, where he had 28 goals and 65 points last season, with 25 goals and 51 points through 56 games this season. Both of which lead the team. He is on pace for 75 points this season, which would be his highest point total since 2010-11, where he had 76 points in 81 games with the Hurricanes. In addition, he is on pace for 37 goals this season, which will also be his highest since the 2010-11 campaign where he recorded 33.

The Wild were last in action on Tuesday, when they defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 on home ice. The Wild scored three goals in a span of 3:08 in the first 6:17 of the game. Staal, Zach Parise, and Marcus Foligno struck for the Wild. Devan Dubnyk will get the start for the Wild. He is 23-10-4 with a .920 save percentage and 2.59 goals against average. Skate Shavings: – Evgeny Kuznetsov has an assist in eight straight games (9 assists) and in 11 of his past 12. He has two goals during that stretch. He has scored two goals in his past three games against Minnesota.

-The Capitals are 4-2-0 in the past three seasons when they do their annual fathers and mentors trip, including 2-0-0 last season.

-With a goal against Winnipeg, John Carlson became the eighth defenseman in the league to hit 10 goals. His 45 points rank third among blueliners.

A Look Back in Time

Washington began a season-long five-game road trip in Minnesota on March 28, a 5-4 overtime victory. After leading 4-2 with 4:57 left, the Wild struck twice with goals from Jared Spurgeon and Staal to send the game to overtime. Ovechkin recorded a hat trick and T.J. Oshie recorded two goals, including the overtime winner to start the 4-1-0 road trip.

By Harrison Brown

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His passion for the Caps has grown over the decades, which has included time as a season ticket holder, social media and community organizer, and most recently led to the founding of NoVa Caps in 2014. Jon earned a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering at Old Dominion University, and is a Systems Engineer during intermissions, which has been instrumental in supporting his Capitals habit.
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One Response to Game Preview: Into The Wild: Washington Capitals vs. Minnesota Wild

  1. Pingback: News and Notes from Thursday’s Capitals Morning Skate in Minnesota: Jay Beagle Update and the Dads Are Here | NoVa Caps

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