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Posted On Wednesday, 04.23.2014 / 4:27 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Avalanche-Wild series blog

Wild may look to Niederreiter to play shutdown role

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild will count on two rookies and a 21-year old in a major defensive role in Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN2, RDS2, ALT- FS-N, FS-WI).

Colorado leads the best-of-7 series 2-1.

With forward Matt Cooke facing possible suspension from the NHL for his knee-to-knee hit on Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie in Game 3, the Wild are expected to move Nino Niederreiter into Cooke's left wing spot on the third line next to center Erik Haula and right wing Justin Fontaine.

Posted On Tuesday, 04.22.2014 / 6:59 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Avalanche-Wild series blog

Wild face likelihood of playing without Cooke

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild will likely be without a key member of their lineup Thursday when they host the Colorado Avalanche in Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round series.

Wild forward Matt Cooke is facing a hearing in New York on Wednesday with the NHL Department of Player Safety for a knee-on-knee hit on Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie in Game 3 on Monday.

Cooke has a history of being disciplined by the League, having been suspended five times since 2004. But the last time he was punished was March 2011 for an elbow to New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

Signed by the Wild last summer as a free agent after five seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Cooke did not have a major penalty in 82 games this season. He's also developed into a leader in the Wild locker room as one of two players on the Minnesota roster with his name on the Stanley Cup.

"He's an important player to our team, there's no question," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "There's a reason why he was brought here and physicality is only a very small part of it. It's his leadership, his experience, his role as a penalty-killer and as a checking forward. Certainly, it's a loss for our lineup."


Posted On Tuesday, 04.22.2014 / 4:30 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Avalanche-Wild series blog

Granlund goal highlights turnaround season for Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In the span of just over a year, Minnesota Wild forward Mikael Granlund has gone from hyped rookie, to disappointment, to pleasant surprise, to on-ice leader.

Granlund scored the game-winning goal 5:08 into overtime Monday in Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round Playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche. His goal breathed new life into the Wild, who trail the best-of-7 series 2-1.

Game 4 is Thursday at Xcel Energy Center (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN2, RDS2, ALT, FS-N, FS-WI).

Posted On Tuesday, 04.22.2014 / 4:19 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Avalanche-Wild series blog

Avalanche facing injury again, recall Hishon

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Colorado Avalanche have overcome a number of injuries to crucial players all season. Now, in a Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild, the Central Division champions will have to do it again.

The Avalanche will be without defenseman Tyson Barrie for the remainder of the series and beyond after a knee-to-knee hit from Wild forward Matt Cooke in Game 3 on Monday. Barrie is expected to be sidelined 4-6 weeks.

Game 4 is Thursday at Xcel Energy Center (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN2, RDS2, ALT, FS-N, FS-WI).

A little more than two minutes into the second period of a scoreless game, Cooke tried to finish an open-ice check on Barrie near the Wild bench. Their left knees collided and Barrie remained on the ice for a short time. He got to the bench on his own, but was not able to put weight on the leg as he skated off, then went down the tunnel to the locker room.

Minnesota won, 1-0 in overtime, and trails the best-of-7 series 2-1.

Barrie's loss is a big one for the Avalanche, already playing without forwards Matt Duchene (knee) and John Mitchell (concussion).

"Without a doubt, an important player to our team," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "He's very good on the power play, but more than that, he's always in the rush."

Posted On Monday, 04.21.2014 / 1:22 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Avalanche-Wild series blog

Kuemper to start as Wild make several lineup changes

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild will make several lineup changes for Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday at Xcel Energy Center (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, TSN, RDS, ALT, FS-N).

Colorado leads the best-of-7 series 2-0.

Rookie Darcy Kuemper will make his first start in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Kuemper relieved starterIlya Bryzgalov in the second period of a 4-2 loss in Game 2 on Saturday and stopped all 14 shots he faced. He also appeared in two Stanley Cup Playoff games last year in relief of Josh Harding.

"It's not just the saves he's making, but the way he's making saves," coach Mike Yeo said. "He looked really confident in practice."

Posted On Monday, 04.21.2014 / 1:12 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Avalanche-Wild series blog

Avalanche's Duchene skates for first time since injury

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene skated on his own during the morning skate Monday prior to Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.

It was Duchene's first time on the ice since sustaining an injury to the MCL in his left knee March 29 against the San Jose Sharks.

Duchene missed the final eight games of the regular season with the ailment, but still led the Avalanche with 47 assists and 70 points this season.

"It was part of the process," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "The trainer thought it was a good time for him to start skating today. We'll go day-to-day with him."

Posted On Sunday, 04.20.2014 / 8:13 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Avalanche-Wild series blog

Wild's third line to try to slow MacKinnon and Co.

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo would not tip his hand Sunday regarding potential lineup changes and adjustments in preparation for Game 3 against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, but it's safe to say he's working on a plan to slow down and limit the effectiveness of Colorado's top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Nathan MacKinnon.

Colorado leads the Western Conference First Round series 2-0 as it shifts to Minnesota, where Yeo will have last change and the chance to match up against that line how he pleases. Although the Wild coach wouldn't divulge his plan, it's been his third line tasked with the tough matchups all season.

"We were able to get those guys out there quite a bit in the first game," Yeo said. "It's obviously a possibility that we'll assemble a line that we'll assign the task of making sure that you're going out there and doing the job against those guys."


Posted On Tuesday, 04.15.2014 / 3:05 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Avalanche-Wild series blog

Granlund, Kuemper return to practice for Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild could be on the verge of getting two key players back from injury in time for their first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche. Game 1 is Thursday at Pepsi Center in Denver (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN).

Center Mikael Granlund and goaltender Darcy Kuemper participated in a full practice Tuesday for the first time in two weeks. Each was injured on March 31, Kuemper during the Wild's morning skate, and Granlund in the second period against the Los Angeles Kings that night.

Granlund, who sustained an upper-body injury when he ran into Kings forward Jarrett Stoll, began skating on his own late last week. For Kuemper, who sustained an upper-body injury, the practice Tuesday was his second time on the ice.

"I feel good," Granlund said. "Let's just say it was a good day again and, yeah, we'll see. I felt really good."

Posted On Sunday, 04.13.2014 / 2:52 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Wild to skate seven defensemen against Predators

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With their position in the Stanley Cup Playoffs secure, the Minnesota Wild will play seven defensemen Sunday in their final regular season game against the Nashville Predators.

Forward Kyle Brodziak is out with a minor lower-body injury. Coach Mike Yeo said Brodziak could have played through the ailment, but the extra days off should put Brodziak at close to full strength.

"He certainly could have played but we just want to give him every opportunity to be 100 percent," Yeo said.

With Brodziak out, the Wild will slide wing Nino Niederreiter to center and suit up defenseman Clayton Stoner, who has missed the past 10 games with a knee injury. Otherwise, the Wild are not expected to rest any key players. Minnesota is 6-0-1 in its past seven games and Yeo wants the Wild to keep their current edge.

Posted On Thursday, 04.10.2014 / 2:46 PM

By Dan Myers -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blues' Backes sidelined; Folin to debut for Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Louis Blues will play the Minnesota Wild on Thursday without captain David Backes, who sustained a foot injury after being hit by a teammate's shot Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. Backes was seen with a walking boot on his left foot.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Backes could be out for the rest of the regular season but expects him back in time for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's an opportunity for guys to step forward," Hitchcock said.

Wild defenseman Christian Folin will make his NHL debut. Folin, who two weeks ago was playing at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, was generally considered the top college free agent available following the season. He had interest from nearly every team in the NHL but chose the Wild over the Philadelphia Flyers, signing a two-year entry-level contract with Minnesota on March 31.

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