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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 2:12 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Stars, Wild

ST. PAUL -- Projected lines for tonight's game between the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center:

STARS
Loui Eriksson - Mike Ribeiro - Michael Ryder
Brenden Morrow - Jamie Benn - Steve Ott
Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Adam Burish
Ryan Garbutt - Tom Wandell - Tomas Vincour

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas
Mark Fistric - Trevor Daley
Philip Larsen - Adam Pardy

Kari Lehtonen
Richard Bachman

WILD
Dany Heatley - Kyle Brodziak - Devin Setoguchi
Cal Clutterbuck - Erik Christensen - Nick Palmieri
Darroll Powe - Matt Cullen - Stephane Veilleux
Matt Kassian - Warren Peters - Jed Ortmeyer

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Tom Gilbert - Steven Kampfer
Clayton Stoner - Nate Prosser

Matt Hackett
Josh Harding
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 2:00 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Yeo stresses need for more urgency at both ends

ST. PAUL -- For the Minnesota Wild, much has been said and written about the their struggles to score goals lately. Even when things were going well early in the season, Minnesota ranked near the bottom of the League in total offense. Ever since things went bottom-up in mid-December, it's gotten worse.

Prior to the Wild's game Sunday against Calgary, Minnesota had been shut out in consecutive games at home for the first time in a decade.

Through 40 minutes against the Flames, the listless Wild appeared ready to make it a hat trick. Finally, Erik Christensen scored back-to-back goals early in the third period Sunday, breaking a home shutout streak of over 160 minutes.

"We owe our fans a good game here," Wild coach Mike Yeo said afterward. "This is too many games in a row where we've come out flat in our own building."

But the offense has only been a part of Minnesota's struggles. Yeo said his team has given up an inordinate amount of odd-man rushes the other way, including the game-winning tally Sunday night in a 4-3 loss to Calgary.

"The last two weeks, we've given up more 2-on-1s than we have all season," Yeo said. "It's something we used to pride ourselves on: We don't give up odd man rushes. Now, we're giving them up like crazy. It's not good enough."

For Yeo, he says his team can combat that by simply putting forth more effort. Too often, he says, his team has been caught flat-footed, and has paid for it.

"It's two goals in the last three games we've given up the exact same way and it should not happen," Yeo said. "It's a matter of urgency, being ready to back up our defensemen and a little bit of urgency that you're not going to allow the puck into the back of your net."

The 2-on-1s are just one aspect of the Wild's defensive game Yeo has been displeased with. Minnesota has made a habit of falling behind, and falling behind early. And although the Wild lead the League in victories when allowing the first goal, a vast majority of those wins came early in the season.

"For a team that has difficulty scoring goals, it makes it real tough trying to battle back the rest of the way," Yeo said. "We have to have more urgency on the defensive side of things and usually when you do that, over the course of the game, things tend to open up a bit more on the offensive side."

Yeo wasn't pleased with the effort of five or six guys Sunday night, hinting at a potential line-up shake-up this evening. That could come in the form of the return of winger Cal Clutterbuck, who has missed the last several games with an undisclosed illness. He skated at the Wild's practice Monday and this morning's skate and is likely to return this evening.

Forward Nick Johnson will be scratched this evening. Johnson, who represented the Wild in the All-Star Game skills challenge, hasn't played well lately and Yeo decided it's time to sit him down.

"I don't want to say we're making an example of him, but that's what it is right now. I didn't like his game last game," Yeo said.

On the injury front, Wild captain Mikko Koivu has also been skating with the team the last couple of days, although his return this season -- if at all -- is still a ways off.

It would also be surprising to see either Pierre-Marc Bouchard or Guillaume Latendresse again this season, especially in light of the Wild's almost nonexistent playoff hopes at this point.
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Posted On Tuesday, 03.13.2012 / 1:56 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Surging Stars happy to have their captain back

ST. PAUL -- The Dallas Stars look to continue their playoff push against the slumping Minnesota Wild tonight at Xcel Energy Center as the two teams hook up for the fourth and final time this season. The home team has won each of the previous three meetings.

The last time these teams played in St. Paul on Jan. 21, the Wild won 5-2, thanks to four second-period goals. Since Dec. 13, Minnesota has won just nine times and the win over Dallas that Saturday is perhaps the team's most impressive in that stretch.

Since then, the Stars have morphed into the NHL's hottest team, winners of five straight games. Dallas hans't lost a game in regulation in nearly a month -- Feb. 19 against Nashville, going 9-0-1 over that stretch.

The streak has pushed the Stars from the outside of the playoff race to the peak of the Pacific Division, two points ahead of Phoenix and four clear of San Jose.

If its winning ways was not good news enough, Dallas also got its captain back Saturday night as Brenden Morrow returned after missing 18 games with an upper-body injury. Morrow came back in style, too, netting the game-winning goal in a 2-0 win over Anaheim.

"It's a pretty long layoff, but the team was playing well and it gave me the time to take care of the body and get healthy again," Morrow said. "I didn't want to screw anything up. The team's been playing great, so it was nice to come in and help out. Spent too much time in the penalty box, though."

The Stars' winning ways allowed the team to take a hands-off approach to Morrow's rehab, affording him to use the full time-frame to get healthy instead of rushing him back. Morrow said he's not all the way back yet, but he's getting closer everyday.

Regardless, Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said having Morrow back in the lineup will definitely help with the grind of the final month, where back-to-back games become more regular.

"He gives us a big, heavy body in there and has a good voice in the locker room," Gulutzan said. "It's going to take him a few games to get up to 100 percent, but I thought his first game was pretty good."

The Stars are dinged up on the back end, however, as defenseman Sheldon Souray is suffering from a lower-body ailment that will keep him out of the lineup tonight and likely again tomorrow in Winnipeg. Forward Radek Dvorak will also miss tonight's game with an ankle injury suffered against the Ducks on Saturday.

Like with Morrow, Dallas plans to play it cautiously with both as Gulutzan says he has confidence in the guys who will replace them in the lineup, defenseman Jordie Benn and Ryan Garbutt.

"[Souray] and Devo are in the same boat, I'd rather have them at 100-percent healthy, or as close to it as we can get rather than to try and push them to play at 75, 70 percent," Gulutzan said. "We need healthy guys and we have healthy guys who can step in and help us."

The Stars called up defenseman Benn on Monday from AHL Texas. He has an assist in two games with Dallas this season and leads Texas defensemen in scoring with 28 points in 56 games.

Along with brother Jamie, a forward, the Benns are just the third set of brothers to play for the Stars at the same time since the team moved from Minnesota in 1993 and just the sixth in franchise history.
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Posted On Sunday, 03.11.2012 / 3:12 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected Flames-Wild lineups

ST. PAUL -- With face-off at Xcel Energy Center between Minnesota and the Calgary Flames coming a couple of hours earlier than normal, Wild coach Mike Yeo won't have to wait long on a couple of game-time decisions he will make regarding two injured players.

Injured in Thursday's game at Phoenix, goaltender Josh Harding will back-up Matt Hackett if he's able to dress. If not, the Wild will likely sign a local amateur to play behind Hackett. Earlier this season, the Wild had to sign 51-year old Paul Deutsch to an amateur contract when a personal issue kept starter Niklas Backstrom from a game and Hackett was iffy to get to the arena in time after a call up. Hackett did, and Deutsch was only used during warm-ups.

"We have a back-up plan for that," Yeo said, divulging little.

But considering the Wild's luck with injuries this season, if they must make another signing tonight, whomever gets inked better stay warm. The Wild have used a team-record 44 players this season, tops in the NHL.

Also a game-time decision is defenseman Clayton Stoner who has not played since Feb. 2 after leaving that game against Colorado following a fight. He's missed 17 games with a hip injury.

"He had a good day yesterday," Yeo said. "It was just a matter of how he felt this morning."

Despite any hope for the playoffs being virtually gone, tonight's game is big for the Wild, who have not won a game at home since Feb. 26. Although that was just three games ago, Minnesota has been blanked by both Los Angeles and Colorado in the two games since -- making it feel like much longer.

"We haven't played real well in this building," said Wild winger Dany Heatley. "I think we got back to our game against Phoenix [Thursday]."

For Calgary, defenseman T.J Brodie did not make the trip and will be replaced in the line-up by veteran Anton Babchuk, who has five assists in 18 games this season and is a plus-1.

Unlike the Wild, Calgary is still very much in the playoff chase, entering play Sunday with 74 points, good for 10th in the west, but only two points behind eighth place-Colorado. The Flames also have two games in-hand on the Avs. San Jose is in ninth with 75 points. The Kings, also have 74 points before the log jam loosens -- the Wild are in 12th with 68.

WILD

Dany Heatley - Matt Cullen - Devin Setoguchi
Nick Palmieri - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
Matt Kassian - Erik Christensen - Darroll Powe
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Tom Gilbert - Steven Kampfer
Clayton Stoner - Nate Prosser

Matt Hackett
Josh Harding

FLAMES

Alex Tanguay - Matt Stajan - Jarome Iginla
Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - David Moss
Tom Kostopoulos - Greg Nemisz - Sven Baertschi
Krys Kolanos - Roman Horak - Guillaume Desbiens

Jay Bouwmeester - Derek Smith
Mark Giordano - Scott Hannan
Anton Babchuk - Cory Sarich

Mikka Kiprusoff
Henrik Karlsson
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Posted On Sunday, 03.04.2012 / 1:48 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Wild, Avalanche

ST. PAUL -- Just six days after coming to the Minnesota Wild organization from the Boston Bruins, defenseman Steven Kampfer will make his debut with his new team tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.

Initially sent to Minnesota's AHL affiliate in Houston to learn the system and get his feet wet, Wild General Manager figured Kampfer's feet were wet enough when watching his team get blown out 6-0 Friday night Detroit. With a bevy of defensive breakdowns in front of goaltender Josh Harding, the Wild decided the time was now to add a seventh defenseman to the mix. Minnesota, which had been playing with seven, or even eight, for much of the season, had decided to go with six since the trade deadline last Monday.

"We've had a chance to look at some of his shifts in the NHL," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "He moves well, passes the puck well, so we're anxious to see if he can come in and fit right in."

The Ann Arbor, Mich. native and former Michigan Wolverine was a fourth round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in the 2007 NHL draft. He was acquired in the deadline day deal that sent veteran blueliner Greg Zanon to Boston.

"It was definitely a surprise that [the call] came this quick," Kampfer said. "I talked to Chuck yesterday and the plan was to play a couple of games [in Houston], get acclimated with the system, play in some games then come up. But I was excited to get the call and I'll be ready to go out there tonight."

Kampfer didn't play in any games with Houston, but was able to participate in two practices with the Aeros, which he said helped him learn a little bit about the systems the Wild use. And with Minnesota's playoff hopes essentially D.O.A. at this point, Kampfer has an opportunity to show Yeo and his staff what he can do in game situations.

"I think you're on tryout everyday when you're in the NHL," Kampfer said. "I don't think it really matters who you are, you have to prove yourself everyday and show that you're making the most of your opportunities. I definitely think this is an opportunity to show the coaches and management that I can play, and I can play in the NHL every night."

Kampfer will be paired tonight with another Wild newcomer, Tom Gilbert, also acquired on deadline day. Gilbert is still looking for his first win in a Wild sweater.

"Both guys move the puck well," Yeo said. "If we can get those guys executing well, it'd be nice to throw those guys out there with a [Cullen] line or a [Brodziak] line. Hopefully their execution can help those guys create a little bit more, whether it's off the rush or even just getting to the offensive zone."

Kampfer's debut is about the only thing certain for a very uncertain Wild team right now. He will take the place of veteran Kurtis Foster, who, along with being a little banged up, was on the ice for three goals against the Red Wings.

Winger Cal Clutterbuck will be a game-time decision after a hard collision with Justin Abdelkader in Detroit. Fellow wing Nick Palmieri, also injured in Detroit, is out with an upper body injury and Yeo had no timetable for his return.

If Clutterbuck does play, Yeo will have to choose between veteran Erik Christensen, who has been scratched of late, or recent call-up Chad Rau, who has scored two game-winning goals for the Wild in just seven games this season -- one coming on Hockey Day Minnesota in January and the other a couple of weeks ago on Hockey Day Across America.

No word yet on if the Wild have petitioned any local municipalities to declare a Hockey Day holiday in their city.

Even Minnesota's starting goaltender for tonight is uncertain. Harding allowed all six goals in Detroit before giving way to Matt Hackett for a large chunk of the final period. Veteran Niklas Backstrom is out 2 to 4 weeks with a groin injury.

Like most teams, it's easy to tell who the starting goaltender will be based on how they come off following the morning skate. Yeo had both goalies come off at the same time.

"We're going to keep that a surprise, we don't do that often," Yeo said.

The smart money is on Hackett making just his second career start tonight. In five games with the Wild this season, Hackett has been brilliant, posting a 2-0 record with a 0.63 goals against average while stopping 98 percent of shots faced. Viewed by many as the franchise's goaltender of the future, it would be Hackett's first career start at Xcel Energy Center.

Colorado, which lost 5-1 to Pittsburgh last night at the Pepsi Center, did not arrive until early in the morning and did not skate Sunday. Steve Downey was injured against the Penguins and the Avs called up winger Mike Connolly, a former University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog.

Connolly led the Bulldogs to a national championship 11 months ago in this building, and if he plays tonight, will also make his NHL debut here. He was acquired in the deal that sent Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi to San Jose last Monday. In 42 games in the AHL this season, Connolly has 10 goals and 20 assists.

WILD

Nick Johnson - Kyle Brodziak - Dany Heatley
Devin Setoguchi - Matt Cullen - Darroll Powe
Matt Kassian - Chad Rau - Cal Clutterbuck
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Tom Gilbert - Steven Kampfer
Justin Falk - Nate Prosser

Matt Hackett
Josh Harding

AVALANCHE

Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Milan Hejduk
Matt Duchene - Paul Stastny - Mike Connolly
Jamie McGinn - Mark Olver - David Jones
Cody McLeod - Jay McClement - Peter Mueller

Shane O'Brien - Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda - Ryan Wilson
Matt Hunwick - Stefan Elliot

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 1:42 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Kings turn to Bernier for second of back-to-backs

ST. PAUL -- Expect few changes for the Los Angeles Kings from last night's 2-1 loss in Nashville. Jonathan Bernier will get the nod in goal tonight against the Minnesota Wild.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he's been impressed with the ability Jeff Carter has brought since his acquisition from the Columbus Blue Jackets last week.

"He's had lots of good opportunities, hit a post last night, had two or three good ones the night before," Sutter said. "I think the big adjustment for him is going to be pace of play."

Tonight's contest features two of the League's lowest-scoring teams. All of which means tonight's game will likely be a high-scoring shootout -- that's typically how it turns out anyways, especially this time of year when expectations can change on a nightly basis.

"We had enough chances last night, that's for sure," Sutter said. "Probably had more chances last night than we did in the Chicago game (a 4-0 Kings win last Saturday)."

On the injury front, the Kings came out of the game last night fine and are expected to put out the same lineup.

"Playing last night, we have some bumps and bruises but nothing holding anyone out," Sutter said.

Here's tonight's projected lineup for the Kings:

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Bernier
Jonathan Quick
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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 1:38 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Minnesota product Gilbert set to make Wild debut

ST. PAUL -- It's possible the smile hasn't left Tom Gilbert's face since it was announced he was traded yesterday in a deadline deal from Edmonton to Minnesota.

Gilbert, born and raised in the Twin Cities, will make his Wild debut this evening on national television against the Los Angeles Kings. And while the story is definitely of the feel-good variety, none of that will matter once the puck hits the ice. The Wild, winners of three of their last four games, trail the Kings by three points in the ever-tightening Western Conference playoff race, where just six points separate six teams for the final two playoff spots.

But for Gilbert, hitting the ice tonight will probably be the most relaxed he's been over the last 24 hours. After learning of the trade, Gilbert said he spent a couple of hours answering emails and texts before packing and hoping on a plane to get to St. Paul. He arrived early this morning, skated with his new teammates and will now try and glean as much as he can about a new system in the eight hours or so before faceoff.

"It still hasn't sunk in yet," Gilbert said. "I think after this first game, once I get settled, it'll be more of a reality."

Perhaps the only people more excited than Gilbert are his parents Kelly and Mary, who still live in Gilbert's hometown of Bloomington, Minn. -- a short 15-minute drive south of Xcel Energy Center.

"I had called my parents before and warned them that my name was out there and that Minnesota was brought up," Gilbert said. "Obviously, my mom and dad were pretty excited. It took me about an hour and a half after the trade to get a hold of them. I'm sure they were dying to hear from me."

From a hockey standpoint, moving Gilbert for franchise mainstay Nick Schultz -- someone Kings defenseman and former Wild teammate Willie Mitchell said he thought would be a "lifer," -- should help jumpstart Minnesota's lackluster offensive production from the blueline.

"It's a big reason why Tom is here," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "The way we want to play the game, a huge part of that is how our defensemen execute and transition the puck out of our defensive zone and deliver it up to our forwards quickly.

"It's a tough game to play if your defensemen aren't moving the puck well. We defend well, but we spend too much time defending."

Here's tonight's projected lineup for the Wild:

Devin Setoguchi - Kyle Brodziak - Dany Heatley
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Nick Palmieri
Darroll Powe - Erik Christensen - Nick Johnson
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Tom Gilbert - Justin Falk
Kurtis Foster - Nate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding
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Posted On Sunday, 02.26.2012 / 1:17 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks-Wild

ST. PAUL -- With its season potentially on the line tonight against San Jose, Minnesota will have to make a go of it without captain Mikko Koivu, still out with an undisclosed injury.

Koivu, who was not on Minnesota's brief two-game road trip to Florida and Dallas this week, has missed the last four games.

The Wild will also be without defenseman Mike Lundin, who has also missed the last four games with a lower body injury. Both guys skated on their own before the team session this morning, but there is no timetable on either of their returns.

"I know he's getting better, getting closer," said Wild coach Mike Yeo on Koivu.

Niklas Backstrom will start in goal for Minnesota. Defenseman Nate Prosser and forward Matt Kassian are expected to be healthy scratches.

San Jose will be without Douglas Murray (fractured Adam's apple) and Martin Havlat (hamstring), but should otherwise be healthy. The Sharks are playing the final game of a nine-game road trip which has seen San Jose go 2-5-1 and drop out of the top spot in the Pacific Division.

The Sharks, who lost 6-2 in Nashville last night, arrived early this morning and did not skate. With the early face-off tonight and the end of a long road trip in sight, it will be interesting to see how much energy the Sharks have left in the tank.

WILD

Devin Setoguchi - Kyle Brodziak - Dany Heatley
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Nick Palmieri
Darroll Powe - Erik Christensen - Nick Johnson
Jed Ortmeyer - Warren Peters - Stephane Veilleux

Nick Schultz - Greg Zanon
Kurtis Foster - Justin Falk
Jared Spurgeon - Marco Scandella

Niklas Backstrom
Josh Harding


SHARKS

Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryan Clowe - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Jim Vandermeer

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Jason Demers - Brent Burns
Colin White - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss
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Posted On Sunday, 02.26.2012 / 1:15 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Familiar faces Foster, Veilleux excited to be back

ST. PAUL -- Defenseman Kurtis Foster and forward Stephane Veilleux both established themselves as NHL players with the Minnesota Wild.

Following Friday's trade that brought both of them back to the Wild in exchange for defensemen Marek Zidlicky, both say they are excited to be back in a familiar spot and are looking forward to helping Minnesota make one final playoff push.

For Foster, a fan-favorite during his first stint with the Wild, his stop in Minnesota will be his third team this season. After starting the year in Anaheim, the Ducks traded him to New Jersey. He played just nine games on the west coast and only 28 with the Devils.

"You never like being traded," Foster said. "But when you come to a team like this… I've been here, know a lot of the guys, know the city, know how great the fans are, it definitely makes it a lot easier."

Foster and his booming shot will immediately step into Zidlicky's role on the No. 1 power play and will pair with Justin Falk, providing the Wild with a couple of big bodies on the blueline.

"A steady, reliable puck mover, someone who is going to help out our power play," said Wild coach Mike Yeo. "You look at the amount of offense we've been able to generate from the back end this year and certainly he will be a welcome addition."

For Veilleux, his return to the Twin Cities is more personal. His wife is from the area, so he has tried on a couple of occasions to return to Minnesota, but it hasn't worked out. Now 30 years old, Veilleux has spent all but one game with Albany in the AHL this season after playing overseas last year and looks at the move back to the Wild as a chance to get his career back on track.

"Couldn't be happier," Veilleux said. "When I got the call yesterday, it was just a great feeling."

Veilleux scored a career-high 13 goals in 2008-09 with the Wild, his final season in Minnesota, but his role here now isn't to score goals in bunches… although as one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL, the Wild would take it.

"He is full of energy," Yeo said. "His speed is going to be a factor. I'm really anxious to get his energy and his life into our lineup."
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Posted On Thursday, 02.16.2012 / 2:26 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

As trade rumors swirl, Zidlicky sits for Wild

ST. PAUL -- The Marek Zidlicky watch is in full effect today at Xcel Energy Center.

The disgruntled defenseman, subject of trade rumors for much of the last 24 hours, skated this morning for the Wild, but will be a healthy scratch tonight against Winnipeg.

It's not to say a trade is imminent, or is even going to happen at this point. But the trade talk has been so thick in the Twin Cities of late that Wild coach Mike Yeo made the decision to sit Zidlicky down tonight -- the fifth time this season he will be scratched.

"All coaching decision," Yeo said. "I don't know what's going on. I don't know what is going to happen. But what I can say is, it's quite obvious that focus-wise, it'd be a tough game for him to go out and perform the way we need him to."

Zidlicky's desire to leave Minnesota became obvious last month when he told Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune of his displeasure about being scratched three games in January. On Wednesday, TSN's Darren Dreger reported Zidlicky had waived his no-trade clause in order to facilitate a trade to New Jersey. Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said he had not approached Zidlicky about a trade to the Devils, or anywhere else for that matter.

It is believed Fletcher is working on something, but as of early Thursday afternoon, there was nothing new to report.

Zidlicky's teammates say it's business as usual, especially for a team desperate to break a five-game losing skid. The Wild have also lost four games in a row at Xcel Energy Center, the first time that's ever happened.

"Everybody reads the papers and is aware of what's in the papers. There's no secrets anymore," Wild forward Matt Cullen said. "That sort of thing, you can't allow to creep in. You just have to leave it alone, and let that take care of itself. Guys are aware of what's going on, but to be honest, there's really nothing we can do about it.

"As a player, you've got plenty to worry about, getting yourself to play and trying to find a way to win a game here."

In that regard, both the Wild and Jets have plenty on their plates. Minnesota has lost 21 of 26 games, a stretch that began Dec. 13 in Winnipeg. At the time, the Wild had won seven straight games and were the best team in the National Hockey League.

"And do you want me to cry or what?" said Jets coach Claude Noel when asked about the quirky statistic. "It's funny, because some teams, when you're hot like they were when they came in, some teams springboard off of a game like that. We've springboarded off that game and had a pretty good month. We've used that to build confidence.

"When you watch them play at that time and then now, you can see the magnitude of what confidence does with a team, both good and bad."

The Jets pounded on the Wild physically that night, including a Zach Bogosian check-from-behind on Pierre-Marc Bouchard that some feel is the main reason why Bouchard has missed several weeks, and could perhaps miss the rest of season, with yet another concussion. Bouchard missed a couple of games after that because of a broken nose and facial lacerations, but returned for a spell shortly after. On injured reserve since Jan. 7, the Bogosian hit is believed to be the incident that set the wheels in motion on yet another head injury for Bouchard.

Bogosian is not in St. Paul because of a lower-body injury. Noel said he will be re-evaluated tomorrow and will be a game-time decision against Boston on Friday.

Both Minnesota and Winnipeg are both struggling to score of late, with the Wild 29th in the NHL in goals per game and the Jets 25th. Winnipeg took the first game by a score of 2-1, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see a similar score tonight.

"Just the way both teams play, I see it being a low-scoring game," Noel said. "I think it has the makings of a good game, a really good game. Both teams are going to have some urgency."

On the lineup front, Chris Mason will start in goal for the Jets. He's lost three straight starts, but has allowed just two goals in each of his last two. He hasn't played since a 2-1 loss at Florida on Feb. 3.

For Minnesota, Yeo said winger Cal Clutterbuck looked good this morning and will skate before the game. He's missed two games with a charley horse and is a game-time decision tonight. If Clutterbuck can't go, Jeff Taffe, called up Wednesday from AHL Houston, will take his place. Cody Almond, also just called up, will play, taking the place of Carson McMillan, who was placed on injured reserve following Minnesota's 2-1 loss to Anaheim Tuesday.

Niklas Backstrom will get the nod in goal.
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— Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa after scoring his 1,000th career point on Thursday night in Ottawa
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