Northwest Division Preview: Minnesota Wild
Continuing my preview of of the Northwest divison with the Minnesota Wild. (My preview of the Colorado Avalanche can be found here, my preview of the Vancouver Canucks can be found here and my preview of the Calgary Flames can be found <a href="http://bleacherreport.com/articles/48892-northwest-division-preview-calgary-flames">here</a>)
Minnesota won the Northwest division last year, and even with improvements in other teams, and some of their own losses, they are a favorite to win the division once again. This is because they have one of the NHL's best, albeit most boring, coaches in Jacques Lemaire.
The Wild should be fine in goal, with Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding. Some people believe Harding may even be able to be the starter. And its never a bad thing to have two starting goaltenders on the roster.
Their defense should be good this year, with the up and coming all star Brent Burns, who was a pleasant surprise last year with 15 goals and 43 points. With new addition Marek Zidlicky, who also had 43 points last year with Nashville, the Wild should have no problem getting the puck out of their zone this year.
Look for Kurtis Foster, if he stays healthy, to provide lots of offence. Kim Johnsson, Martin Skoula and Nick Shultz provide the defensive support for the Wild. The addition of Marc-Andre Bergeron is a risk on even strength, but his powerplay ability can't be denied. Look for the defence to spark the offense this year for the Wild.
After losing Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston, Minnesota is a little weak upfront. They still have Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Marian Gaborik and Mikko Koivu, but after that, there isn't much. Andrew Brunette is a good addition, but if he isn't playing with any of the above three, he will be hard pressed to score 20 goals this year.
While Owen Nolan will bring some leadership to the locker room, don't look for him to come even close this year to 20 goals. The rest of their forwards are more defensive forwards in Eric Belanger, Antti Miettinen, and Stephane Veilleux. Benoit Pouliot and James Sheppard should get a chance to show they belong this year, and if they can take advantage, then the Wild will be fine.
All in all, with Lemaire coaching, the Wild will once again be a defensive-minded team, and this year's team seems to be made just for that. Expect them to be in the playoffs, and fighting for the division crown.
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