Who knew that when you saw that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild were slated to face off tonight on Versus (7:30 p.m. ET) that you’d be seeing a showdown between the first place Wild (they were atop the NHL as recently as this past week) and the defensively struggling Lightning. After all, if you figured anyone was going to have a hard time being consistent in winning games, it’d be Minnesota, right? Not so much these days.
While the Wild have cooled off in their last couple games, they’re still atop the Northwest Division and they’ve got Mikko Koivu and Dany Heatley to thank for it offensively. Koivu is the guy that NBC’s Pierre McGuire called “the most underrated guy in the league” and he’s showing the way in Minnesota. More impressive for the Wild is their goaltending tandem of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding. Sure the Wild aren’t scoring tons of goals, but they’re keeping the wolves at bay.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has seen Steve Stamkos bust out a bit lately with five points in his last three games and 24 points in all this season. Of course, Steve Yzerman has worries about the Lightning’s depth and considering their top scorers, it’s a prime worry. The Lightning will need that offense to continue to counteract the troubles in goal Tampa Bay had before facing Florida over the weekend.
Mathieu Garon may have turned things around against the Panthers, but unless Dwayne Roloson can get things figured out, the Lightning might be in the hunt for a starting goalie somehow. Roloson could be in line to start against one of his former teams in the Wild and giving Guy Boucher a shot to see how he responds.
With the Wild having dropped two in a row and Tampa having won their last two, this match-up sets up to be a curious one. One thing’s for sure, we won’t have to sweat out that whole 1-3-1 thing Tampa does as the Wild will look to move the puck up the ice and get Heatley and Devin Setoguchi moving and hopefully scoring more goals.