Wild-Jets Preview


Josh Harding delivered another impressive performance his last time out, helping the Minnesota Wild bounce back from an ugly loss.

The Winnipeg Jets know all too well of his ability to dominate in goal.

Surging Minnesota continues a four-game road trip Saturday seeking a third consecutive win over the slumping Jets.

While the Wild (14-5-4) opened their trek by allowing their most goals this season in Tuesday's 6-2 loss to Montreal, they regrouped to beat Ottawa 4-3 the following night. Mikko Koivu scored the go-ahead goal with 2:57 remaining and added two assists while Harding made a season-high 34 saves.

"I felt confident that we were going to play really hard because of our leadership and because of the way we've responded in the past," said coach Mike Yeo, whose team has gone 11-2-1 over the last month. "I've got a lot of confidence in that leadership."

Much of Minnesota's success can be attributed to Harding, who is 10-1-1 with two shutouts in his last 12 games. He bounced back in a big way after giving up three straight goals and getting pulled in the second period against the Canadiens.

"It was a huge answer from our club," Harding told the NHL's official website. "We know that (Tuesday) wasn't our best day, but it was a huge win today. A couple of big goals by a couple of key players, and it was a fun building to play in, actually."

Harding ranks second in the NHL with a 1.48 goals-against average - more than a goal lower than his career mark of 2.49. He is also among the league leaders with 13 victories.

"You never know what will happen, but right now he's just a good NHL goaltender," general manager Chuck Fletcher said of Harding, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last year. "There doesn't need to be any asterisk with what he's doing."

Harding has been especially good against Winnipeg (10-11-3), making 14 saves in a 2-1 win Oct. 10 and 21 in Sunday's 2-1 victory.

Koivu, who has four goals and eight assists over an eight-game stretch, provided all the offense last weekend. He has nine points in his last seven meetings in the series.

"They're a hard-working fast team that gets the puck in deep and grinds out," Jets defenseman Keaton Ellerby said of the Wild. "It's frustrating playing against that team."

After winning a season-high four straight, Winnipeg is suddenly on the verge of a season-worst fourth consecutive defeat. The Jets, 0-2-1 in their last three, allowed their highest goal total of the year in Thursday's 6-3 loss to Chicago.

Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd each had a goal and an assist and Bryan Little added two helpers, but Ondrej Pavelec stopped just 27 of 32 shots.

"You play in your zone like we did tonight, you can't expect to get a point," said Pavelec, who dropped to 5-6-1 with a 3.17 GAA at home.

While the Jets tied things up with a three-goal second period, they surrendered three unanswered in the third.

"That's a good question - what do you do?" coach Claude Noel told the team's official website. "That's what I'll be thinking about. How? Why? It's something I have to figure out. It's part of the job."

Byfuglien has six goals in the last six games and nine points in his last seven against Minnesota.