Flyers vs. Wild preview: Entering the holiday on a high note?

Jeff Gross

The Flyers take on the Minnesota Wild in a Festivus matchup that is sure to be a true feat of strength.

Tonight, the appropriately dressed Minnesota Wild travel to Philadelphia for the final game before a short Christmas break.

After Saturday's blowout loss to Columbus, we sure have a lot of grievances to air about the Flyers. They've pretty much been showing us all season that they're a solidly mediocre team -- always able to get as many wins as losses, but never any more. Each exciting win has been followed by a crushing defeat, and vice versa.

Flyers_orange_mediumWild_red_medium
Philadelphia Flyers (16-16-4, 36 pts) at Minnesota Wild (20-13-5, 45 pts)
7:30 p.m. | Wells Fargo Center | Philadelphia, PA
TV: CSN Philly, NBCSN, TSN2 | Radio: 97.5 The Fanatic
Get the Minnesota perspective at Hockey Wilderness

If that trend continues, we're due for a big win today. I can't think of a better Christmas present (except maybe a Countach).

We don't really see the Wild much, so here are a few things to note.

The last time these teams faced off against each other it ended in a shutout loss for the Flyers. That game was really annoying -- extraskater.com's handy dandy Fenwick chart reminds me that the Wild controlled play for pretty much the entire game before the Flyers ratcheted it up far too late.

Much like every team in the Western Conference (aside from the Oilers), the Minnesota Wild are a better team than the Flyers. Minnesota currently stands 12th in the NHL with 45 points, and undoubtedly have faced a tougher schedule than Philadelphia all season.

The Wild aren't exactly an offensive powerhouse -- they currently rank 29th in goals per game, just ahead of the Sabres, who are just god-awful. That being said, this doesn't mean that the Flyers are off the hook. Minnesota doesn't let in too many goals, and most of their wins are characterized by keeping the opposing team off the board (see above).

Controlling play and getting as many shots on net is going to be key for the Flyers. Leaning heavily on the recently surging first line just might get this done.

Taking advantage of power play opportunities is a good idea -- as few goals as the Wild allow, their penalty kill is not so hot.

Minnesota goalie Josh Harding is currently on injured reserve as he adjusts to new medication for multiple sclerosis. It's really terrible that he's being sidelined due to illness, but I can't help but note that it's good news for the Flyers. Harding has been stellar all season, and his being out is a huge blow to the Wild.

No word on the starting goaltenders for Minnesota yet, but considering Nicklas Backstrom played last night in a loss to the Rangers, maybe we'll see rookie Johan Gustafsson between the pipes. Gustafsson was called up to fill the void left by Harding, and we know very little about him -- he has no NHL games under his belt, and only nine in the AHL.

UPDATE: Nicklas Backstrom will start for the Wild tonight. He's seen limited time this season due to the rise of Josh Harding and has been, well, not so great. Good news for the Flyers for sure.

Steve Mason will get the start in net tonight for the Flyers, hopefully snapping out of his recent skid into mediocrity.

Steve Downie is still out, so expect the recently returned Lecavalier to fit into the lineup accordingly. Erik Gustafsson suffered a knee injury in Saturday's game, so he'll be out in favor of Meszaros. Looks like Grossmann is back after missing Saturday's game due to the flu, so that's nice.

A win tonight would be a Christmas (read: Festivus) miracle. Game starts at 7:30. Wild suck. Go Flyers.

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