Preview: Minnesota visits Philadelphia needing the points

Mar 23, 2023 - 5:30 PM
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Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images

There might be a theme going on in these late-season games involving the Philadelphia Flyers. This team certainly does not need any more points and we are just waiting until it mathematically does not matter anymore. But the teams that do need the points and are in races with other teams are visiting Philadelphia at just the right moment.

Flyers vs. Wild

When: 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic

It didn’t work for the Florida Panthers earlier this week. Alex Lyon was maybe a little shaken up by coming back to this city and ended up losing the game, but it might just be a little bit different when the Minnesota Wild stroll into Philadelphia on Thursday night.

For the Wild, they are crawling around in the Central Division and trying to finish the regular season at the top of their division for the first time since Jacques Lemaire and Marian Gaborik willed them into being Northwest Division champs in 2008. As it stands, they are tied for the lead with the Dallas Stars but the Colorado Avalanche are creeping up behind them fairly quickly, just two points down and one game in-hand over both those teams. It’s going to be tight, so Minnesota is just needing some sort of win in every game they have.

And lucky for them, they have been experiencing a whole lot of success as of late. In their last 17 games, they have failed to earn at least one point just once, and that was against the President’s Trophy-earning Boston Bruins last week. Even after losing their sole star in Kirill Kaprizov, they still found some scoring and enough defense to go 4-1-1 since he went down with the costly injury.

This newfound gumption without one of the top talents in this league is what might drive them past the Flyers tonight. They might out-Flyers the Flyers the way that they are just shutting teams down completely.

If Philadelphia has any chance (if you want them to win, for some reason) it would be based on their actual scoring talent that they have over Minnesota.

Projected Flyers lineup

Joel Farabee — Noah Cates — Owen Tippett
James van Riemsdyk — Kevin Hayes — Wade Allison
Brendan Lemieux — Morgan Frost — Tyson Foerster
Nicolas Deslauriers — Scott Laughton

Ivan Provorov — Cam York
Travis Sanheim — Rasmus Ristolainen
Nick Seeler — Tony DeAngelo
Egor Zamula

Carter Hart
Felix Sandstrom

We can only repeat it for so long, but this Flyers team has some scorers actually available to them and players that can break open a game at any time. With Farabee getting on the score sheet against Florida, and even the defensemen stepping up and rocketing home their shots, there is at least a floor-level skill that we know these players have right now.

Plus, we get to watch forwards like Tyson Foerster and Owen Tippett blossom into actual deadly top-six wingers right in front of our eyes. The Wild don’t really have the same amount of these guys right now.

We know that the coaching staff wants to get Zamula some minutes, so we don’t really know how that is going to look against the Wild tonight.

Projected Wild lineup

Marcus Foligno — Ryan Hartman — Mats Zuccarello
Marcus Johansson — Joel Eriksson Ek — Matt Boldy
Brandon Duhaime — Frederick Gaudreau — Oskar Sundqvist
Mason Shaw — Connor Dewar — Ryan Reaves

Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Alex Goligoski — John Klingberg

Marc-Andre Fleury
Filip Gustavsson

Without Kaprizov, the Wild have had to depend on Matt Boldy to score, in addition to random players like Ryan Reaves getting on the score sheet (I’m telling the truth, look it up). Plus, the entire lineup is made up of guys that are created from a similar mold — someone who is defensively responsible above everything, but can skate well and forecheck hard enough to possibly get some pucks behind the goal line occasionally.

Jared Spurgeon was out sick during their Tuesday game in New Jersey, and if he still is not feeling well, expect Jon Merrill to draw in as the sixth defender.

Players to watch

Noah Cates

The last time these two teams met this season, it resulted in a gutsy 3-2 loss for the Flyers but overall, it was two teams clashing that care more about preventing scoring chances than getting them. And Noah Cates had an important game that night in January, scoring the first goal of the game and proving even more that he could hang with anyone.

Tonight we might expect something similar, since he does feel like a very Minnesota Wild player, being good in all three zones and having an underrated offensive game.

Matt Boldy

Boldy has taken Kaprizov’s injury to heart and has been the key player on this Wild team for most of this month. In the six games since Kirill went down, Boldy has been held without a point just once and has earned a total of six goals and four assists. He’s on fire, plainly.

Plus, ever since he linked up with two-way center Joel Eriksson Ek to do a lot of the heavy lifting for him, there seems to be a lightness to his offensive game (to continue the analogy) and that has provided a lift to his overall game. He is someone to watch out for in all three zones and can surprise goaltenders with a quick release.

Prediction time

We’re going to expect a loss, just because this is the Flyers we are talking about (and we would prefer it anyway). Let’s say something like a 4-3 loss but Minnesota scores all four goals within the first half of the game and then the Flyers score three in the second half, to just come inches away from an equalizer. If we cared about the result, that would be a heartbreaker, but right now, it will just be some relief that they aren’t going to force overtime yet again.

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