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Game #02 Preview: Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild

Winnipeg has more than a Little hole to fill

After their dramatic come from behind victory on Thursday, the Winnipeg Jets face a stumbling 0-1-0 Minnesota Wild club in the latter’s home opener.

Catch the game tonight, 6:00 PM CT on Sportsnet One, FS-N, FS-WI and TSN 1290.

While it’s unconfirmed, one might expect Michael Hutchinson to make his regular season debut after Connor Hellebuyck’s .852 Sv%, four goals against effort versus Carolina. If head coach Paul Maurice again turns to Helle, it’ll be the first clear sign that this is less a 1A, 1B tandem and more Hellebuyck’s ball to roll with. Regardless, while he is the team’s goaltender of the future, one shouldn’t expect perfection all game, every game.

The Minnesota Wild have a clearer pecking order in net, and so look for Devan Dubnyk to suit up again tonight. In 10 games against the Winnipeg Jets, the 30-year-old has a career .907 Sv%. While Darcy Kuemper is a perfectly adequate backup, one Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau will likely turn to throughout the season, Minnesota’s playoff hopes depend significantly on Dubnyk carrying the mail. Unlike a Dallas or Nashville, the Wild aren’t so strong a team as to easily overcome bad goaltending.

On defence, it looks as though Ryan Suter will again be asked to play big minutes for Minnesota. The Madison, WI native skated to the tune of 28:11 TOI on Thursday versus St. Louis, including 5:02 on the power play and 2:54 shorthanded. Riding shotgun was Jared Spurgeon, who effectively matched Suter's special teams time while ending up with a total of 26:06 TOI. They're not necessarily what folks think of so far as first pairings go, but Suter-Spurgeon together should be a reliable, formidable duo all season long.

The Jets have their own go-to defenceman, and his name is Dustin Byfuglien. The good Minnesota boy played 28:41 against Carolina, including a whopping 6:15 TOI on the power play. His nominal partner, Josh Morrissey, played a comparatively paltry 14:45, while Tobias Enstrom and Tyler Myers put in some solid second pairing work. Paul Postma skated for all of 9:07 TOI, including 0:00 special teams work, but it's better than the press box (or inserting press box alternatives).

The big news for Winnipeg is undoubtedly how Bryan Little is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. For all the Jets much (and rightly) vaunted forward depth, the absence of Little creates a void not easily filled. Early indications are that line shuffling will be the solution, with Patrik Laine jumping up to the top-line, Mathieu Perreault filling the 2C role (while taking Kyle Connor with him), and Alexander Burmistrov returning to the lineup between Shawn Matthias and Nikolaj Ehlers. It comes as no surprise that the club is evaluating their options, including who might be recalled from the Manitoba Moose.

At least going into tonight, the fallout isn't exactly pretty. Let's end on a positive note of Bruce Boudreau praising Laine:

What are your predictions for tonight’s game? Are the Minnesota Wild club a playoff team this season? Does Patrik Laine score once more? And how should the lines combos read with the absence of Bryan Little?

Share your thoughts, feelings and concerns in the comments section below, and as always, thanks for reading!