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At the Rink: Canucks at Wild

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Back from his conditioning assignment with Iowa of the American Hockey League, goaltender Darcy Kuemper was at the Minnesota Wild's morning skate Monday ahead of their game against the Vancouver Canucks.

How coach Mike Yeo manages three goaltenders the rest of the season will be an interesting storyline.

Though Devan Dubnyk will likely receive the vast majority of the starts for the foreseeable future, who will back him up is expected to be fluid.

Monday against Vancouver, it will be Niklas Backstrom. Minnesota is at the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday and it's possible Kuemper could get the start.

"My focus is on this game tonight," Yeo said. "How it plays out after that, it will be what it will be."

In two weeks with Iowa, Kuemper played five games. Prior to that, he hadn't started a game with Minnesota since Jan. 6. A lower-body injury cost him two weeks but Kuemper returned in Minnesota's final game before the All-Star break on Jan. 20, looking sharp in a relief role against the Detroit Red Wings.

Still, the Wild wanted to get Kuemper some game action before feeling comfortable putting him back in the lineup. In that regard, the two-week stint in Des Moines helped.

"I've been playing lots of games and I feel good," Kuemper said.

The Wild are one of six teams in the NHL to have played 51 games this season -- fewest in the League. More games in fewer days could mean a couple extra starts along the way for either Kuemper or Backstrom.

Yeo said he's not worried how he'll handle it.

"I do know that we have to make sure that we're managing it correctly," Yeo said. "In a lot of ways I feel bad for [Backstrom] and I feel bad for [Kuemper]. As well as [Dubnyk] has played, he deserves a lot of attention and that has magnified and put a little bit more pressure, been a little bit tougher for them to deal with everything.

"But they're handling it well. They've had a great attitude. And I think we're playing better game right now, so when either of those two guys get back in the lineup, hopefully we give them a better chance to be successful."

Riding a five-game winning streak, Minnesota is expected to make no changes to its lineup.

Vancouver, coming off a 5-0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, isn't expected to make any changes up front. Defenseman Chris Tanev, who has missed the past two games with concussion-like symptoms, is a game-time decision. He skated with Alexander Edler during the morning skate.

Dubnyk and Ryan Miller will be the starting goaltenders.

Here are the projected lineups:


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Alexandre Burrows

Shawn Matthias - Nick Bonino - Radim Vrbata

Chris Higgins - Linden Vey - Zack Kassian

Derek Dorsett - Bo Horvat - Jannik Hansen

Alexander Edler - Christopher Tanev

Dan Hamhuis - Luca Sbisa

Ryan Stanton - Adam Clendening

Ryan Miller

Eddie Lack

Scratched: Ronalds Kenins, Yannick Weber

Injured: Frank Corrado (undisclosed), Kevin Bieksa (broken hand), Brad Richardson (lower body)


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Jason Pominville

Ryan Carter - Erik Haula - Kyle Brodziak

Nino Niederreiter - Charlie Coyle - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Nate Prosser - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Darcy Kuemper, Christian Folin, Justin Fontaine

Injured: Matt Cooke (sports hernia), Keith Ballard (head/face)

Status update: Tanev also participated in the morning skate Saturday but did not play. ... Fontaine, who hasn't played since Jan. 29, missed time with a groin injury but is available if needed.

Who's hot: Henrik Sedin has five assists in his past five games, and has the more assists and the second-most points against the Wild than any player. ... In five games since returning from a wrist injury on Jan. 27, Granlund has one goal, two assists and is a plus-4.

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