The Minnesota Wild have split their first four contests on their season-high six-game homestand, but a visit from the Montreal Canadiens has translated into success of late for the hosts. The Wild aim for their fifth straight home victory over the Canadiens and sixth overall in the series on Thursday when the clubs meet at Xcel Energy Center.
Eric Staal scored two goals and set up two others in last season’s series against Montreal to increase his point total to 42 (21 goals, 21 assists) in 44 career encounters with the Canadiens. The 33-year-old Ontario native notched an assist in Minnesota’s 2-1 setback to Winnipeg on Tuesday to move into a three-way tie for the team lead in points (eight) with fellow forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Jared Spurgeon. Montreal rebounded from getting booed off the ice at Bell Centre in a 4-0 setback to Los Angeles last week with a 5-4 win over the New York Rangers on Saturday and an 8-3 rout of Ottawa two nights later. “Offensively we’ve been a team that hasn’t scored much, but five the last game and eight (on Monday) so I can see the confidence coming back with the players,” coach Claude Julien told reporters. “You can’t keep losing hockey games and feel good about yourself, but you start winning and confidence comes back.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TSN2, RDS (Montreal), FSN North (Minnesota)
ABOUT THE CANADIENS (4-7-1): Defenseman Shea Weber has been contributing on the offensive end with two goals and five assists in his last four games to tie forward Jonathan Drouin for the team lead in points with nine. The 32-year-old Weber set up three goals versus the Senators and has flustered the Wild to the tune of 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 42 career encounters. Max Pacioretty has done a fair amount of damage in short order with six goals and eight points in nine career matches with Minnesota.
ABOUT THE WILD (4-4-2): Devan Dubnyk has enjoyed seeing the Canadiens on the ice, as the 31-year-old goaltender posted a 2-0-0 mark with a 1.50 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in two meetings last season and owns a stellar 5-1-1 record in seven career encounters. Dubnyk has been anything but consistent this season, answering four-goal performances with strong follow-up outings over his last four starts. An egregious turnover by Matt Dumba put the defenseman in the doghouse on Tuesday, with coach Bruce Boudreau telling reporters, “You know, he just hasn’t been playing that well. ... I just thought that was an inexcusable play and at some point you have to be accountable for your actions.”
1. Montreal’s Al Montoya owns a 5-0-0 mark with a 1.18 goals-against average versus Minnesota while fellow G Carey Price is just 4-5-0 with a 3.01 GAA.
2. Stewart has been held off the scoresheet in the first four contests of the homestand.
3. Drouin has an assist in back-to-back contests and four in his last four games.
PREDICTION: Wild 3, Canadiens 2