We are going to learn a lot about the Minnesota Wild

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Thursday night’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild. The Golden Knights-Wild stream coverage begins at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

We are about to get a really good idea over the next couple of weeks for exactly how good the Minnesota Wild are this season.

Even though they dropped back-to-back games to the San Jose Sharks this week (including Wednesday’s 4-2 defeat), the Wild still find themselves in a great position in the West Division playoff race. They enter Thursday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights in third place in the division with a seven point cushion over the non-playoff teams, while also having games in hand. There is every reason to believe they are going to secure one of the four playoff spots in the division.

They have the goaltending to carry them when things are not working. Kirill Kaprizov gives them a star to build around offensively. And their defense remains rock solid. There is a lot to like about this team and the way it plays. A lot of important ingredients for a contending team are in place.

But even with all of that there is still some question as to just how good this team is and what is capable of in this division with three Stanley Cup contenders (Vegas, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues) sandwiched around them.

So far, the season has gone according to plan for the Wild. They have mostly feasted on the rebuilding teams in the division around them, owning a 16-5-1 record against the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, and Los Angeles Kings. They have collected points against the teams they should be collecting points against. No complaints or issues there.

[GOLDEN KNIGHTS-WILD COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10:30 P.M. ET– NBCSN]

It is the other three teams (the contenders) that are going to be a challenge for them, and a good measuring stick for what they might be capable of come playoff team.

As of Thursday they are only 5-5-1 against the Avalanche, Golden Knights, and Blues, and a week ago were completely dominated in two games against the Avalanche. Their next seven games are against those three teams, starting with Thursday’s game in Vegas. They also will spend the majority of their remaining schedule playing those three teams, including seven games against the Blues, the team immediately behind them in the standings.

If the Wild can hold their own in those games, maintaining that .500 mark against them or perhaps even go slightly above it, that would almost certainly send a pretty strong message that they would not simply just be playing for the right to lose to one of them in the playoffs. It also might give the front office even more incentive to add to this roster before the trade deadline. They have some salary cap space to work with while also holding an additional first-round draft pick as a trade asset thanks to the Jason Zucker deal a year ago.

Before losing the past two games against San Jose the Wild had been one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 15 out of their previous 20 games. That includes a two-game series sweep against Vegas earlier in March.

Now we get to see how they stack up again, and against the other top teams in the division.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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    Predators-Avalanche postponed due to water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Friday’s game between the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche has been postponed because of a water main break that has soaked the downtown arena.

    The NHL said the water main break has “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store.

    The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    A makeup date for the  game will be announced later.

    Also, a decision on whether to postpone the Predators’ home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be made later.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue in Nashville for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.

    Carrier, Pietrangelo rally Golden Knights past Canucks 5-4

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Pietrangelo scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and had two assists as the Vegas Golden Knights rallied past the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 on Monday night.

    William Carrier scored twice and Mark Stone had a goal and an assist for the Golden Knights (15-4-1), who overcame a 4-2 deficit in the third. Reilly Smith also scored, while Jack Eichel and Alec Martinez each had two assists.

    Logan Thompson made 25 saves for Vegas, which had a go-ahead goal wiped out in the third but still kept pushing.

    “I don’t think that’s really how we drew it up,” Pietrangelo said. “A lot of emotions. Obviously we score and then it gets taken back. But I’ll tell you what, it’s not easy to win on the road and you’ve got to give credit to our group – we were resilient no matter what happened.”

    Vancouver (6-10-3) got a goal and an assist from Andrei Kuzmenko. Bo Horvat, Luke Schenn and Elias Pettersson also scored, and Quinn Hughes had two assists.

    Thatcher Demko stopped 33 shots for the Canucks, who gave up a multi-goal lead in a loss for the seventh time this season.

    “Inexcusable,” defenseman Luke Schenn said.

    “That’s nothing to do with systems or what the coaches are telling us. That comes down to battle and compete and, we’re getting outmuscled and outbattled in front of the net and in the blue paint,” he added. “Everyone just needs to be better in front of (Demko) there and that’s where games are won and lost.”

    Vegas appeared to take the lead midway through the third period, but the goal was disallowed because of a bizarre bounce.

    A clearing attempt by the Canucks hit the lens of a camera sticking through one of the media holes in the glass, knocking a piece of it onto the ice. Play continued at that end and Stone put the puck in the net. But after a video review, the goal was overturned and an official said the whistle should have been blown to stop play.

    About four minutes later, Pietrangelo did give the Golden Knights a 5-4 advantage when he collected a puck from Stone and sent a backhand past Demko from the low slot at 14:14.

    Vancouver scored three straight goals early in the third to go up 4-2 before Vegas roared back.

    “We let them score one, kind of changed the momentum quick and then they scored another one. So I don’t know,” Pettersson said. “We just can’t let that happen. It’s been happening way too many times this season.”

    Carrier made it 4-3 with his second of the night at 6:54, sending in a rebound from the top of the crease for his sixth of the season.

    “Once they scored one it was like, `Uh oh, here we go again.’ And we’re back on our heels and they came at us, and then they got three,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    Smith shoveled a puck into the Vancouver net at 8:57 to tie it.

    “We just win some pucks below their goal line and get it to the front of the net and force them to defend an area they haven’t done as good a job as they’d probably like this year there,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We didn’t do a very good job to start a third there, and then it snowballs a little bit. You have a little life and you get a couple more pucks to the net and a second chance.”

    ON A ROLL

    Horvat drew the Canucks even 1:47 into the third with a wrist shot from the hash marks. Vancouver’s captain has 15 goals, second-most in the NHL behind Connor McDavid (16). … Brock Boeser‘s assist on the first goal of the game extended his point streak to seven games (two goals, six assists).

    MARKING MILESTONES

    Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault played his 500th regular-season NHL game. Now in his 10th season, the 31-year-old center suited up for Columbus, Tampa Bay and Florida before Vegas selected him in the 2017 expansion draft. … Vancouver defenseman Ethan Bear made his 200th regular-season appearance.

    UP NEXT

    Golden Knights: Host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday in the opener of a three-game homestand.

    Canucks: Begin a three-game trip Wednesday at Colorado.