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At the Rink blog

Koivu, Scandella return for Wild against Flames

Monday, 03.03.2014 / 2:05 PM

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

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Koivu, Scandella return for Wild against Flames

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Riding a four-game winning streak, the Minnesota Wild will get a couple of key contributors back from injury Monday when they play the Calgary Flames at Xcel Energy Center.

Captain Mikko Koivu, who has missed 17 games with a fractured ankle, and defenseman Marco Scandella, who missed three games with a sprained knee, will join a team that is already playing some of its best hockey of the season.

After road wins against the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks coming out of the Olympic break, the Wild will play at home for the first time in nearly a month. With 73 points, Minnesota is seven clear of the Dallas Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks for the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Despite missing over a month, Koivu is still tied with defenseman Ryan Suter for the team lead with 27 assists. His 35 points are third on the team. Wild coach Mike Yeo said his addition will be a welcome one in both ends of the rink.

"We're getting a great player back," Yeo said. "Obviously, we know what he means to our team. You can use a guy like that in every situation. It's all the little things, it's the intangibles. He has the ability to create offense every time he's on the ice, but it's the way he defends, the way he plays against top players, it's the faceoffs he takes … a great player we're excited to have back."

Scandella injured his knee on the first shift of the game Feb. 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, but because of the Olympic break he missed only the three games. He will wear a brace on the injured leg, something he said has been an adjustment since getting back on the ice with his teammates last week.

"There's a bunch of guys in the NHL that use the brace," Scandella said. "It takes a little bit of time, but I feel really comfortable."

Calgary will see the return of Lee Stempniak on Monday after he spent time in Boston with his wife for the birth of twin daughters. He missed the Flames' first two games after the break, but was skating on his own in Boston and said he's ready to go against the Wild.

"I've been away for a long time, especially with going back into the Olympic break," Stempniak said. "It's exciting to be back. Hockey is a huge part of my life, and I'm happy to be back and playing."

Forward Brian McGrattan is also expected to return to the lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury. Though the Flames will get Stempniak and McGrattan back, they will be without Matt Stajan, who returned to Calgary for personal reasons.

Monday will also mark the first NHL meeting of the Granlunds when Minnesota's Mikael will play his younger brother, Calgary's Markus. Flames coach Bob Hartley said Markus will get the start and expects him to come out energized against his big brother.

"I don't know," Markus said. "I think it's just a normal game. Of course I'm excited, but I don't think I'll [be nervous]."

Here are the projected lineups for the Flames and Wild:

FLAMES

Mike Cammalleri - Mikael Backlund - David Jones

Jiri Hudler - Sean Monahan - Lee Stempniak

Paul Byron - Markus Granlund - Joe Colborne

Lance Bouma - TJ Galiardi - Brian McGrattan

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Kris Russell - Chris Butler

Ladislav Smid - Dennis Wideman

Reto Berra

Joni Ortio

Scratched: Derek Smith, Blair Jones, Matt Stajan (personal reasons)

Injured: Curtis Glencross (ankle), Kevin Westgarth (head), Karri Ramo (knee)

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Dany Heatley - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Nino Niederreiter

Torrey Mitchell - Erik Haula - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Marco Scandella

Keith Ballard - Nate Prosser

Darcy Kuemper

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Mike Rupp, Stephane Veilleux, Clayton Stoner

Injured: Jason Zucker (lower body), Josh Harding (illness)

Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres