Paced by 25-year-old stars, the Minnesota Wild and Kirill Kaprizov, along with the Buffalo Sabres and Tage Thompson, are currently playing some of their best hockey this season.
Kaprizov’s visiting Wild aim for a 10th victory in 12 games, while trying to keep Thompson and the Sabres from winning their eighth in the last nine on Saturday night.
Entering play Friday, Thompson was tied for third in the NHL with 55 points, and was second only to Edmonton superstar Connor McDavid with 30 goals.
Kaprizov isn’t far behind with 47 points heading in the first 2022-23 meeting between the two young stars.
The Wild have outscored their opponents 38-19 while losing just twice in their last 11 games. They are also amid a 15-5-0 stretch, and sitting third in the Central Division.
“We got into games with the expectation of playing our style, which is hard to play against,” said Minnesota forward Matt Boldy, who has 11 points in his last 11 games.
“When we’re putting pucks into the net along with it, it’s hard to play with us. We’re playing confident for sure.”
Buffalo, meanwhile, is trying to move into playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres have only one defeat in the last eight contests, and are 12-4-2 since a season-high eight-game skid from Nov. 4-19. They’re also amid a 3-0-1 stretch at home, where they’ve scored six goals in winning each of the last two there.
For the third time this season, Thompson posted at least three goals, recording a hat trick — highlighted by the game-winner — in Wednesday’s 5-4 overtime victory at Washington.
One day later, Thompson, with 17 goals and 12 assists in his last 15 eight games, learned he will be an NHL All-Star for the first time since breaking into the league in 2017-18 with St. Louis.
“Everything he’s doing, you could see, not only did he have the potential to do it, and the capability to do it, you could see he had the determination to do it through the daily work ethic,” Sabres coach Don Granato said.
Set to make his second NHL All-Star appearance in his third season, Kaprizov scored twice during the Wild’s impressive 5-1 home victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday. He sits at 96 career goals in 173 regular-season games and has failed to record a point in just three of his last 25 contests.
Kaprizov has also made the most of his two games against Buffalo, both losses last season, with three goals and an assist. Thompson, meanwhile, has an assist for his only point in five career games versus Minnesota.
Thompson’s teammate Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 28 saves at Washington, and has a 2.75 goals-against average during his personal five-game winning streak. Buffalo teammate Craig Anderson has stopped 99-of-103 shots and posted a shutout in his last three starts.
Minnesota’s Marc-Andre Fleury owns a 1.61 goals-against average during his current 4-1-0 starting stretch. Meanwhile, backup Filip Gustavsson has saved 65 of 67 shots in winning his last two starts, but left late in Wednesday’s game, after making 35 saves, due to an apparent illness.
–Field Level Media