ST. PAUL, Minn. – Tonight could be a battle of attrition for the Wild and Islanders.
Both teams enter play battling a number of injuries. New York will welcome back a couple of key pieces tonight, including defenseman Andy MacDonald, who hasn't played since Nov. 29 at Buffalo because of a right leg injury.
MacDonald should help an Islanders special teams crew that has struggled of late.
"I sense the frustration setting in on the power play and that can’t happen," coach Jack Capuano told the team's website. "All our power play goals have come from getting pucks to the net. We aren’t doing it right now and that’s a problem."
Also back this evening will be forward Nino Niederreiter, who suffered a concussion Dec. 3 against Dallas and missed five games.
Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will also be back in the lineup tonight, although he will back up Al Montoya.
Defenseman Mark Eaton, who has missed the last 11 games, will not play tonight, although Capuano mentioned he is "close." Capuano also confirmed Brian Rolston's concussion after some additional testing. There is no timetable for his return.
Tonight will also mark a homecoming for Islanders forward Kyle Okposo. Born "two minutes down the road," Okposo said he will have a number of family members in attendance tonight. He also said he was able to have a family Christmas party at his mom's house last night.
Injuries have also been a problem for the Wild, who have suffered a litany of setbacks all season -- first with their defensemen and now with their forwards.
Team captain Mikko Koivu -- who sustained a lower-body injury on the final shift of overtime in Minnesota's Wednesday night loss to Chicago, will not play this evening and the team hopes to have him back by Christmas. He skated in his warm-up suit before the team's morning skate.
Also among the walking wounded is Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who missed the game Wednesday after being checked head-first into the boards at Winnipeg on Tuesday. The winger suffered a broken nose and facial lacerations. He skated with Koivu this morning, but also practiced and Wild coach Mike Yeo said he's a game-time decision.
If he can't go, Yeo said the team will go with seven defensemen. Should Bouchard be able to play, it appears veteran defenseman Greg Zanon will be the odd-man out again, as he was Wednesday night.
"He looked great," Yeo said of Bouchard. "It's just a matter of seeing how he feels this afternoon."
If Bouchard is out, Zanon will play because forward Casey Wellman -- hampered by a wrist injury -- has been ruled out this evening.
"Seeing him shoot the puck, he can't go out and play the way we need him to play," Yeo said.
Forwards Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) and Devin Setoguchi (lower body) did not skate today and remain out indefinitely, although Yeo said Setoguchi will travel with the team on their upcoming three-game road trip.
With all of the injuries, Yeo said it's critical for some guys to play their roles better.
"We have to have guys that play big tonight," Yeo said. "Missing a lot of guys like this, play big in your own game. Don't take yourself out of that. Nothing should change for us, really. We should be ready to come in here and grind it out."
Wild forward Jarod Palmer will also make his NHL debut tonight. The 25-year old native of Fridley, Minn. had four goals and six assists in 26 games with Houston in the NHL and was a plus-eight.
"The challenge is keeping your head together, keeping your head in it," Palmer said. "You can't get to high or low. Stay even keeled, play smart and be ready to play."
Here are the projected lineups for both teams:
Dany Heatley - Matt Cullen - Cal Clutterbuck
Pierre-Marc Bouchard - Kyle Brodziak - Darroll Powe
Nick Johnson - Cody Almond - Jarrod Palmer
Colton Gillies - Warren Peters - Brad Staubitz
Nick Schultz - Mike Lundin
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Marek Zidlicky - Clayton Stoner
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
David Ullstrom - Josh Bailey - Nino Niederreiter
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Tim Wallace
Mark Streit - Travis Hamonic
Andy MacDonald - Milan Jurcina
Mike Mottau - Dylan Reese