Tonight, the Hurricanes play host to the Minnesota Wild. This will be the first time since the pandemic hit that the team from the North Star state makes its appearance in Raleigh, and Carolina will be looking to push their lead at the top of the Metropolitan to 7 points after a friendly result in the New York City grudge match.
Carolina’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot is just 4 and a win tonight would give the Canes a mathematical chance to clinch tomorrow despite not playing. Back in Minnesota earlier in the season, the Hurricanes were defeated 3-2 by the high-flying Wild offense. Minnesota has the 4th best goals per game of any team in the NHL and shutting down the big forward will be a big part of the Canes getting a victory in this one.
The big forward to keep an eye on is obviously Kirill Kaprizov. With 83 points in 65 games, he’s been turning the league into his playground. He’s the absolute biggest threat and it’s going to be essential that the Hurricanes keep the Russian winger off the board and keep the Wild’s scoring low enough to give the team a chance.
Coming off an overtime defeat to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Wild are going to be looking to get back to winning ways. They’re well-coached and can keep up with the Canes up and down the ice. During the last game where these two Stanley Cup chasing teams squared off, the Wild’s ability to pin the Canes in their own zone really outlined the fact that Minnesota could keep up with the Canes.
For Carolina, tonight’s game is going to have to be very simple hockey. Force the elder statesmen on the Minnesota blueline to turn and chase the puck into their own zone. Dumping or controlled entries both work, but the Canes will need to keep that backend twisting so they can’t protect their newly acquired goalie and reigning Vezina winner.
For a goalie matchup, I’m expecting it to be Marc-Andre Fleury for the Minnesota Wild. Whether it’s Frederik Andersen for Carolina or not, the Canes’ netminders have been excellent all season. It’s going to be a case of the team in front of them because the goalies have been the Hurricanes’ undeniable strength all season long. Closing in on the playoffs, the rest of the team will need to warm up.