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Leafs @ Wild Preview: Getting Wild in Minnesota

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The Leafs look to rebound from a bad loss by heading deep into the American Hinterland.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

XCel Energy Center; St. Paul, MN
8:00 p.m. ET; TSN4
Lutefisk Eaters: Hockey Wilderness

Matchup

The Leafs, fresh off a 6-1 loss to Winnipeg, travel to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area- better known as America's Conjoined Twin- for a Thursday night matchup with the Wild. The Leafs are coming off their 398469849225th back-to-back of the season, but smartly mitigated the damage by electing not to play for the third period of last night's game. Bold coaching move by Babcock, but I like it!

Their opponent has a rich history with NHL hockey. Once upon a time, Minnesota had a team called the North Stars. They had a nice logo with cool green and yellow jerseys, and even made the Stanley Cup Final in the 1990s. Minnesota's team was the coolest. Alas, Minnesotans decided they'd rather watch Eriksen High defeat Eriksson High in D-3 high school hockey, so North Stars games were not well-attended. Consequently, the team moved to Dallas.

Minnesota would get another team in 2000, but it just wasn't the same. Remember the Goosebumps book where the father became weird and boring, because it turned out he was an impostor that was some sort of humanized plant? That's the Wild. The Wild are the boring stepdad your mom remarried who tries too hard to get you to like him but just lacks the personality. They're the off-brand cola of Minnesota hockey. Heck, their captain is the RC Cola of the Koivu family!

Did you know they haven't played the trap in years, yet are still inexplicably boring and offensively stifling? How do people watch this 82 times a year? They're a Bermuda Triangle in which fun, high-scoring players go to die. Has anyone heard from Thomas Vanek recently? What about Zach Parise? The NHL website says they play for this team, but I haven't seen evidence of it.

The Impostor North Stars are clinging to the second wildcard spot with a two-point lead over the Jets. They're winless in their last three home games.

Probable Leafs Lineup

Babcock confirms that the Leafs will roll the same lineup as last night, with one change: James Reimer gets his first start in net since his injury on November 24.

van Riemsdyk - Kadri - Komarov

Matthias - Bozak - Parenteau

Grabner - Spaling - Winnik

Holland - Froese - Boyes

Gardiner - Phaneuf

Hunwick - Rielly

Marincin - Polak

Reimer

Probable Minnesota Lineup

Per Daily Faceoff, updated Dec. 1:

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Nino Niederreiter

Thomas Vanek - Charlie Coyle - Justin Fontaine

Chris Porter - Erik Haula - Ryan Carter

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Nate Prosser - Matthew Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Prediction

Low-event game that you'll watch flipping channels between it, another hockey game, Thursday Night Football, and...I unno, what replaced Friends on Thursday nights?