The NHL is set up with eight games on the board for Thursday night. One of these games includes a matchup between the Florida Panthers and the Minnesota Wild. The Panthers have not been great this season, while Minnesota has found themselves fighting for a playoff spot early in the season.
The Panthers have gone 11-12-6 this season. Florida is currently sitting in eighth place in the Atlantic Division. The Panthers were the second to last team to earn a win this season and it has shown in their standings. Florida has lost three games in a row and four of their last five. The Panthers will look to end their losing streak with a win on the road on Thursday night.
Minnesota has started out the season with a 16-12-2, which has earned them the fifth seed in the Central Division. The Wild are coming off a big 7-1 against the Montreal Canadiens, which ended a two-game losing streak. Minnesota will look to try and build this into a winning streak on Thursday night. I believe that this should be a good matchup.
Thursday night’s game will be the first of two games between the Panthers and the Wild this season. Florida and Minnesota will meet one more time on March 8. Both teams have had some slight issues recently, but a big win could help get either of these teams going. I expect this to be an exciting matchup on Thursday night.
Last Season’s Matchups
Last season, Florida and Minnesota met up twice during the regular season. The Panthers hosted the first game of the season. Ryan Suter and Daniel Winnik each scored once for the Wild, but it was not enough. Jonathan Huberdeau had two goals and Aleksander Barkov had two assists to help give Florida the win. James Reimer had 29 saves in route to a 4-2 win.
The second and final game of the season series was held in Minnesota. Jonathan Huberdeau scored again for the Panthers. Matt Cullen and Eric Staal each had two-goal nights for Minnesota. Jared Spurgeon had three assists to help give the Wild the win. Devan Dubnyk stopped 25 of 26 shots to give Minnesota a 5-1 win.
Each of these two teams won their home game against each other last season. The Wild went on to make the playoffs, while Florida missed out on the playoffs. The Wild have won their last six games against the Panthers at home. Florida’s last win in Minnesota came in the 2009-10 season. Minnesota has been pretty dominant at home against the Panthers, but I believe that Florida has a chance to pull off a win on Thursday night.
The Panthers have been doing a solid job on special teams this season. Florida’s power play has been able to score at a rate of 27 percent. The Panthers penalty kill has been able to stop their opponents’ power play chances 78 percent of the time. Florida’s power play is near the top of the league, while their penalty kill is slightly below the league average.
Minnesota’s power play has not been quite as good as the Panthers, but it has still been effective. The Wild have a power percentage of 25 percent. Minnesota’s penalty kill has been stopping teams at around 85 percent of the time. The Wild’s special teams have been doing really good this season and it has really helped them with their success this season.
I expect Roberto Luongo to get the start in net for the Panthers on Thursday night. Luongo has gone 5-5-1 this season in his starts. Luongo missed a good chunk of this season due to injury, but he is back, and he has been doing well. He has posted a save percentage of .903 and a 3.04 GAA. Luongo will look to help get another win for Florida on Thursday night.
Devan Dubnyk will likely get the start in net for the Wild. Dubnyk has had a .910 save percentage and a GAA of 2.72 this season. He has posted an 11-9-2 record in his 22 games this season. Dubnyk has played really well for Minnesota, which has helped the Wild jump out to a solid start this season.
Both goalies have been solid this season, but Dubnyk has posted better numbers. Dubnyk has had some extra help in front of his defense, which has helped him out quite a bit. I believe that Luongo continues to play well, even as he gets older. He should be able to keep the Panthers into a tight game with the Wild.
Florida comes into Thursday night’s game on a bit of a losing streak. I believe that they have a good chance to end it with a win in Minnesota. The Panthers have a solid special team, which could help them compete with the Wild. Roberto Luongo has been doing well as well and he should be able to go toe to toe with Dubnyk. Florida has lost six straight games in Minnesota, but like all streaks it will come to an end and I believe Thursday night is a good opportunity to do this.
BetOnline has the Wild listed as a -163 against the money line. This implies that Minnesota will win this game 62 percent of the time. Even though the Panthers have been struggling recently, Florida has still been keeping it close in many of their games. I believe that there is a lot of value on the Panthers pulling off the upset on Thursday night. I am taking Florida as a road underdog.