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At the Rink: Islanders at Wild

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter will return to the lineup Tuesday when his team plays the New York Islanders at Xcel Energy Center. Suter has missed the past two games because of the mumps.

Suter began showing symptoms of the illness nine days ago, and missed games last week against the Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks, the first games he has missed since signing with Minnesota in July of 2012.

"It's hard to put it into words [what his return means,]" Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "The first thing you have to look at is the amount he plays through the course of the game, we're talking half the game. Then obviously from a defensive standpoint; how he helps to alleviate pressure, how helps you defend quickly, the way he's able to separate guys from the puck.

"I could keep going, there's a lot of things."

Suter practiced with the team Saturday, his first time on the ice after five days. Not surprisingly, he struggled. The team had an off day Sunday and returned Monday, where Suter responded much better.

"He had a pretty good practice. He handled it well," Yeo said.

Forward Charlie Coyle missed practice Monday with an illness (not the mumps), but was at the morning skate Tuesday and will play. Mikko Koivu had been suffering from a minor strain, but will also play Tuesday.

"They are both fine," Yeo said.

With Darcy Kuemper struggling of late, Niklas Backstrom will get the start in goal. Kuemper has been pulled in three of his past four starts. For Backstrom, it's his first start since Nov. 29 against the St. Louis Blues. He's 3-2-1 this season with a 1.97 goals-against average.

For the Islanders, defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky has been activated from injured reserve and will rejoin the lineup. He has missed the past four games with an upper-body injury. Visnovsky will take the place of Matt Donovan, who will be a healthy scratch.

Up front, the team placed forward Casey Cizikas on injured reserve. He suffered an upper-body injury Saturday against the St. Louis Blues. Islanders coach Jack Capuano said Ryan Strome will begin the game in Cizikas' fourth-line center spot, but won't necessarily stay there.

"Ryan is one of those guys I can move around," Capuano said. "You might see him down the middle, might see him on the wing. He's gonna be a utility guy for us."

Jaroslav Halak will get the start in goal, Capuano said. He allowed six goals on 40 shots Saturday against the Blues.

"We gave up three power-play goals," Capuano said. "You're not gonna win many hockey games doing that. We're just gonna regroup and be better in that part of our game."

Here are the projected lineups:


Nikolay Kulemin - John Tavares - Kyle Okposo

Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Mikhail Grabovski

Anders Lee - Brock Nelson - Michael Grabner

Matt Martin - Ryan Strome - Cal Clutterbuck

Nick Leddy - Lubomir Visnovsky

Calvin de Haan - Griffin Reinhart

Thomas Hickey - Brian Strait

Jaroslav Halak

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Cory Conacher

Injured: Eric Boulton (lower body), Matt Carkner (back), Johnny Boychuk (upper body), Travis Hamonic (upper body), Casey Cizikas (upper body)


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter - Kyle Brodziak - Charlie Coyle

Ryan Carter - Erik Haula - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Keith Ballard - Nate Prosser

Niklas Backstrom

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Stu Bickel, Christian Folin

Injured: Matt Cooke (lower body)

Status report: With Cizikas, one of the Islanders' better penalty killers, out for at least the next three games, Capuano said Grabovski, Nelson and Nielsen could see more minutes on the penalty kill. … Suter is the NHL's leader in time on ice this season, averaging more than 29 minutes per game. Despite battling the mumps over the last week, expect Suter to take on his normal workload. "If he's playing well, we'll keep putting him out there," Yeo said.

Who's hot: Okposo, a St. Paul native, had two assists against the Blues on Saturday and has five in his past five games. Okposo's 19 assists lead the team and are ninth-most in the NHL. … Koivu has a point in four consecutive games and six points over his past six games, scoring two goals and four assists in that span.

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