Minnesota is certainly a different team than the one the Pittsburgh Penguins faced nearly two years ago. In fact, the Wild’s top line may have a different look than it had just four games ago.
This will be the first meeting between Minnesota (7-2-2) and Pittsburgh (5-4-1) since Dec. 8, 2005, when the Wild won 5-0 on the road. It was the teams’ only meeting of that season.
Minnesota is 5-1-0 with one tie all-time against Pittsburgh. The Penguins have never won in Minnesota, going 0-2-0 with a tie.
The Wild were on their way to a disappointing season when they last faced the Penguins, finishing fifth in the Northwest Division and missing the playoffs. Minnesota bounced back last season to finish second in the division with 104 points, and it is now in first place with 16 points.
With Gaborik and Demitra leading the way, the Wild started this season 7-0-1. Demitra, though, injured his groin in a 3-2 victory over Colorado on Oct. 21, and Minnesota hasn’t won since.
Gaborik hurt his groin in practice Saturday, and the Wild lost 3-1 to the Avalanche the next day. Demitra and Gaborik, who along with Eric Belanger comprise the Wild’s top forward unit, are uncertain for Tuesday’s game.
“That’s the way it is. When you have guys missing, you need your defense to be its best and play the best they can,” Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said.
The banged-up Wild now have to contend with the Penguins and Sidney Crosby, who will be playing in Minnesota for the first time in his NHL career. Crosby played at Shattuck-St. Mary’s High School in Faribault, Minn. in 2002-03.
Crosby’s only appearance against Minnesota came in the teams’ last matchup.
The Penguins captain scored his fourth goal of the season Saturday night, but it wasn’t enough as Pittsburgh lost 4-3 in a shootout to Montreal.
The Penguins dropped their previous game 5-2 to Toronto on Thursday.
“I think we need to play with more emotion,” said Crosby, who has a point in nine consecutive games since being shut out in the season opener.
Evgeni Malkin had three assists Saturday for the Penguins, who came back to tie the game after trailing 3-0 less than a minute into the second period. Malkin has one goal and five assists in his last three contests.
Pittsburgh added some speed Saturday, recalling forward Tyler Kennedy from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL. Kennedy, a fourth-round pick in the 2004 draft, made his NHL debut against the Canadiens after recording three goals and two assists in six games in the AHL.
Marc-Andre Fleury appeared to snap out of a season-long slump with consecutive strong games last week, but found himself lifted by coach Michel Therrien after allowing three goals on 15 shots against Montreal. Fleury has given up eight goals in his last 80 minutes and has a 3.50 GAA on the season.
Fleury is 0-2-0 with a 5.36 GAA in two career games against the Wild. The Penguins may start Dany Sabourin, who has a 2.08 GAA in four games but has never faced Minnesota, on Tuesday.