Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
It's the match-up that will be the talk of the NHL Tuesday night: The Minnesota Wild, the top team in the Western Conference, versus the Washington Capitals, the top team in the Eastern Conference.
The Capitals are currently tied with the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins for the most points in the NHL, but the Wild aren't far behind and they can cut into the Capitals lead with a win tonight.
Sitting just three points out of the top spot with only 15 games to play in the regular season, the Wild are still in the running for the President's Trophy - the trophy awarded to the team that finishes the regular season with the most points (best record) - and, despite their recent struggles know they can win if they simply play a complete game.
"If we don't get 60 minutes out of them, we're not going to win," Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said Monday after practice. "We're playing the best team in the league and at probably the maddest point they've been in two years, so we better be ready."
The "maddest point" that Boudreau is referring to is the Capitals likely added motivation given their current four-game losing streak, their longest losing streak in two years.
To add to the frustration for Washington, superstar winger Alex Ovechkin, the team's leading goal scorer, hasn't scored a goal in 10 games which is the longest such drought of his career.
“It’s not a good feeling,” Ovechkin said of his team’s slump. “We know what we did wrong and what we need to do right. We need to manage our game. The next game will be better. We have a huge opportunity against Minnesota, so we need to bounce back."
The Wild know that despite Washington's recent slump, they are arguably the best team in the league and they will need to be on top of their game to make sure the Capitals don't "bounce back" Tuesday night.
"You can't give them much, if anything at all," Wild forward Charlie Coyle said. "[We need to do] what makes us successful; stick to our structure, play fast, playing physical. We should get that right from the start and carry through and if we do, we'll be happy with the result."
For Boudreau, it will be yet another homecoming of sorts as the Wild head coach spent the first five years of his coaching career with the Capitals where he had a record of 201-88-40 in the regular season and 17-20 in the playoffs.
"Tons of [memories]. This was, at the time, the greatest place in the world for me," Boudreau said. "It was the first chance I got to coach in the NHL and the people, [former Capitals General Manager George McPhee] treated me incredible. I'll never forget it."
In Minnesota's last game, a 4-2 loss to the rival Chicago Blackhawks, they came out slow and were buried in a 2-0 deficit less than five minutes into the game. Starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk was pulled in place of back-up Darcy Kuemper and the Wild, despite cutting the lead to a single goal multiple times, were unable to get the equalizer.
The Wild will look to start fast and hopefully play with a lead and avoid facing the pressure of having to mount a comeback.
"You gotta play a full 60 minutes in this league," Wild forward Charlie Coyle said. "That's what we need to do to be successful, it doesn't matter who you're playing. We want to get to our game as soon as possible, just jump right in and get to our game."
It will be an early start tonight for the Wild and Capitals as the puck will drop tonight at 6:08 P.M. CST and can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM.