The NHL is host to eleven games on Thursday night. With that many games on, I expect plenty of tight contests and highlight reel plays. One of the exciting games on the board for the night is between the Minnesota Wild and the Calgary Flames. Both of these teams have played strong to start out the season and are sitting in playoff spots early in the season.
The Wild have started out the new season with a record of 15-10-2, which has them sitting in fifth place of the Central Division. Minnesota knocked off the Vancouver Canucks in their last game to end a three-game losing streak. The Wild will look to turn that single win into a small winning streak with a win on Thursday night against the Flames.
Calgary has jumped out to a 17-9-2 start this season. The Flames are in first place of the Pacific Division early in the season. Calgary is currently on a three-game winning streak. In their last game, the Flames scored nine goals against the Blue Jackets. Calgary will be a tough team to take down at home on Thursday night.
This matchup will be the first of three games between the Wild and the Flames. Minnesota and Calgary will also meet on December 15 and March 2. Both teams have looked like playoff teams early in the season, which should lead to some solid games. I believe that with both teams coming in off wins on Tuesday night that Thursday night’s game will be a solid matchup.
Last Season’s Matchups
Minnesota and Calgary met a total of three times last season. The Flames hosted the first game of the season. T.J. Brodie had an assist on both of Calgary’s goals. Ryan Suter each had a goal and two assists. Jared Spurgeon scored a goal and added an assist. Alex Stalock turned away 35 of 37 shots in route to a 4-2 win over the Flames.
The second game of the season series was held in Minnesota. Matt Cullen and Michael Ferland scored the only goals in regulation. Mikael Granlund had the game-winning goal in the shootout. Mike Smith had 21 saves, while Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock combined for 26 saves. Minnesota finished with a 2-1 win at home.
Minnesota hosted the final game of the season series. The Wild were led by Mikael Granlund and Ryan Suter each had two points, but it was not enough. Johnny Gaudreau had a three-point night, while Micheal Ferland and Sean Monahan each had a goal and an assist. Mike Smith had a 33 save night. Calgary finished with a 3-2 win in overtime off a goal by Dougie Hamilton.
The Wild took the season series 2-1. Minnesota went on to make the playoffs, while the Flames missed out. All three games were within one goal, not counting empty net goals. I believe that this will help lead to another close game on Thursday night.
Minnesota has been really strong on both sides of special teams this season. The Wild have scored on about 24 percent of their power play opportunities. Minnesota stopped 84 percent of their opponent’s power play chances. The Wild have been above average on both the power play and penalty kill.
The Flames power play has been solid this season. Calgary has been successful on 24 percent on their power play chances. The Flames penalty kill has not been great though. Calgary has put up a 76 percent on their penalty kill. The Flames need to step up on their penalty kill if they want to keep their top spot in the Pacific Division.
The Wild have the edge on the special teams because of the Flames penalty kill. Minnesota should be able to get a leg up on their power play chances. Calgary has a solid power play as well, but they could have some difficulty beating the Wild’s penalty kill. Minnesota’s identity comes from their defense, which will give the Flames’ hot offensive push a difficult run on Thursday night.
I believe that Devan Dubnyk will get the start in net for the Wild on Thursday night. Dubnyk has posted a record of 10-8-2 in his starts this season. In those games, he has a .911 save percentage and a GAA of 2.68. Dubnyk has had a solid start this season, but he has struggled a little over the last couple games.
Mike Smith will likely start for Calgary against Minnesota. Smith has a save percentage of .884 and a 3.12 GAA. He has a 9-7-1 record in his 17 games played this season. Smith has not been great this season, but with David Rittich playing really well he could step up his game to try and save his starting job.
Calgary has been really hot recently, but I believe that Minnesota could give them a tough challenge on Thursday night. This game will revolve heavily on the Wild’s tough defense going against Calgary’s hot offense. The Flames are coming off a high scoring game on Tuesday night and I believe that they will quiet down for Thursday night’s game. Minnesota could slow them down on special teams, which could give them the edge.
BetOnline has Calgary listed as a -140 against the money line. The Flames are hot, but with Smith matching up against Dubnyk in net, I believe they will need to have another high scoring game. Minnesota is coming off a tough win and I believe that they will pull off the win on the road on Thursday night. I am taking the road underdogs.