Meeting of the Rookies: Preview of the Wild vs. Blackhawks Game

Creator: Dan Hamilton | Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, 12/3, the Chicago Blackhawks come to town to face the Minnesota Wild. This will be the first regular-season meeting between the Wild and the Blackhawks. Even during the pre-season match-up in St. Paul, the Blackhawks did not have Connor Bedard skate, so this will be the first time that Minnesota fans can see the phenom live at the Xcel Energy Center. 

The Wild have come off of a two-game win streak after head coach Dean Evason and assistant coach Bob Woods were fired. The Wild hired John Hynes as the new Head Coach and pulled Pat Dwyer up from the Iowa Wild to be an assistant coach, focusing partially on the penalty kill.

Against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, the Wild won 3-1 at home and then blew the Nashville Predators out of the water 6-1 in Nashville. Not only have they had two wins in a row, but they’ve managed to kill seven straight penalties coming into Sunday’s game. After a rough season start, the Wild may have turned a corner.

4 Things to Watch

A Slightly Different Lineup

Ryan Hartman, who was suspended for both wins this week, is expected to draw back into the lineup on Sunday. Vinni Lettieri had been called up from Iowa to fill in on the fourth line, while Pat Maroon was elevated to the third line. There have been no roster moves, so the Wild most likely plan to bring him along on the upcoming four-game road trip.

In an interesting twist, Hartman may end up slotting in directly for Lettieri on the fourth line. The FolignoGaudreau-Maroon line has been playing well together, and Hynes may not want to break up that chemistry.

Connor Dewar Explosion

If fans were to bet on which player would get a hat trick in any given game, chances are good that not many would pick Connor Dewar. But the fourth-line grinder showed that he was more than that on Thursday, scoring three goals and picking up an additional assist for four total points. In fact, he scored a fourth goal, but it was called off because of a missed off-sides call. Either way, is this a new level for Dewar? Or just a one-off? He’ll be an interesting player to watch in the next few games.

The Calder Race

While Chicago has generational talent, Bedard the Wild have two good rookies of their own. Both Brock Faber and Marco Rossi have played exceptionally well despite the way the team has played. Even in games where every other Wild player looked terrible, Faber and Rossi continued to be the bright spots.

The pairing of Jonas Brodin and Faber has a Top 10 expected goal percentage in all defensive pairings with at least 80 minutes of 5 v. 5 time together (60.5%). Increasing that to pairings with at least 200 minutes together, they move up to the third-best pairing in the league. Faber himself was on the ice Thursday for his first 5 v. 5 goal against since November 2nd. 

Rossi earned a promotion to center the top line between Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov. Since this line has started to play together, they’ve had amazing stats. Their expected goal share as a line is in the top 10 of all offensive lines who’ve played at least 70 minutes together.

Who’s In Net?

Filip Gustavsson has taken his rough start and flipped it on its head. Mirroring the start of last season, Gustavsson has shifted his play after Thanksgiving, looking more like the Gus Bus that fans cheered on most of last season. After a goalie rotation to start the year, Gustavsson has started the last four games, improving his stats with every game he plays. 

However, it looks like Marc-Andre Fleury will start in net against the Blackhawks. Fleury is a goalie who likes to shoulder a heavy workload, so not starting the last four games was probably tough on him. This will help him to stay in game-ready shape.

For more about the Wild’s game against the Predators, listen to the latest episode of Her Wild Side Hockey Podcast.

A Post-Mortem for the MN Wild Season Her Wild Side Hockey Podcast

In this episode, Mikki performs an autopsy of the 2023-24 season for the Minnesota Wild. She also touches on how a fresh start will be good for the Wild next season and the two brackets that she put together for the NHL playoffs this year.Links:Her Wild Side Merch Shop!Ticketmaster Affiliate LinkSocial Media:TwitterInstagramFacebookFor more from us, visit Inside The RinkHow to support us and our sponsors:Columbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR  
  1. A Post-Mortem for the MN Wild Season
  2. Trading Gustavsson Would Be the Dumbest Idea Ever
  3. Bold Statement: I Would NOT Trade Brock Faber for Connor Bedard
  4. The Mom of Wild Twitter Says the Season Isn't Over Yet!
  5. The Wild Can Still Make the Playoffs if We Send Good Vibes!

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