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Early Morning Skate: Wings at Wild

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I feel bad for what Todd will do to the gum of the bubble pops and it gets stuck in his stubble.
I feel bad for what Todd will do to the gum of the bubble pops and it gets stuck in his stubble.

The Red Wings put their four-game winning streak on the line when they head up to Minnesota to take on the surging Wild. It's another early start for the Wings, who surprised us all last weekend by winning an afternoon game for the first time this century. This is the third meeting of the season between the Wings and Wild, with both teams registering a win on the road.

The Red Wings are fresh off a sweep of Florida, beating the Tampa Bay Stevies 6-2 and then taking care of business against the Panthers 4-3 the following night. The Wild are running amok since the calendar turned to 2011, having won 14 of their last 21 games to put themselves in the thick of the Western Conference race. The Wings are holding steady in the West, currently sitting in 1st in the Central (8 points ahead of the Predators) and 2nd in the conference (5 points behind the Canucks). The Wild find themselves in the logjam that is the middle of the West, 1 point behind the 8th seed Anaheim Ducks (who they dismantled the other night 5-1).

Hockey Wilderness is your SB Nation Wild blog.

Bullets and prediction form after the jump.

  • The Wings just took 4 straight games from the East, but they begin a stretch where they play 10 of their next 11 games against Western Conference opponents. The Wings have a record of 27-13-5 against the West, and against the Wild's division (the Northwest), they are 12-2-2. Hopefully they can continue that dominance today.
  • The Wild may be without Mikko Koivu, who hurt his hand in the game against the Ducks. Koivu is both their top offensive threat and unquestioned leader, and his absence would be a huge hole in the Wild lineup.
  • The Happy-Buckets-Dangles line continues to be hot, as that line registered 2 more goals against the Panthers on Friday night. With Mike Modano due to come back in the next week or so, do you think this line should stay intact? I wouldn't, because why would you want to mess with a good thing.
  • One area where the Wild could have an advantage is on the power play. They currently rank 6th in the NHL on the PP, while the Wings have the 18th best PK unit. Conversely, the Wings have the 5th best PP, while the Wild are 11th in killing penalties. Staying out of the box will be key for the Wings,
  • I haven't seen the official lineups, but I'd be shocked if Jimmy Howard did not get the start for the Wings. Joey Macdonald was adequate in relief of Jimmy against the Panthers, but that goal to Radek Dvorak still makes me cringe. Howard has played much better in the last few games, and the Wild are not one of the better offensive teams (24th in GF).
  • Todd Bertuzzi will be playing in game number 1000 of this career today, no small feat considering all of the things he's had to endure in his career, both of his own making and injuries. We give Bert a lot of crap around here, and we are all well aware of his past and some of the mistakes he's made. I can honestly say that he has done the best he can to put it all behind him and try to be a better player going forward, and while there are some who will never forgive him for what he did, a hearty congratulations from me on achieving this significant career milestone.
  • It's been crazy the last few days with the trades going on, leading some to wonder whether there will be anyone left by the time the trade deadline comes up next week. By far the biggest deal was the one between the Blues and Avalanche that saw Erik "Next Time I'll Walk The Course" Johnson, Jay "Selke" McClement and a 1st rounder go to the Avs for Chris "Don't Spell It With a 'U'" Stewart, Kevin "I Just" Shattenkirk "Myself" and their first rounder. Reading some of the reactions to the trade, it doesn't seem like either side is happy, which suits me just fine.
  • Today is Hockey Day in America (not to be confused with last week's Hockey Day in Canada). Games will be played all across the country, with the nightcap being the Heritage Classic between the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames. Question for discussion: what is your favourite non-Red Wings hockey moment?
  • Prediction: 5-3 Wings, with Johan Franzen taking advantage of Bertuzzi's good vibes (and passes) for a pair of goals.