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At the Rink: Wild at Flyers

by Adam Kimelman

PHILADELPHIA -- When the Minnesota Wild signed forward Thomas Vanek in July, the hope was he could boost their offense and their chances of competing for a top-three spot in the Central Division.

It hasn't quite worked out that way; Vanek has one goal and 10 points in 17 games. On Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers, Vanek will play left wing on a line with center Charlie Coyle and right wing Jason Zucker. Coyle will be the fifth center Vanek has played with.

"I think for me it's to find not even a line, but just another guy I can play with," Vanek said. "Right now it's been a rotating door for myself. I've played with [Zucker] a little bit here and there and I feel me and him have a little bit [of chemistry]. Him and Charlie have something. I think I can complement those two guys and we'll see how it goes. With [Charlie's] speed and power, maybe we've got something there."

Wild coach Mike Yeo said getting Vanek back to scoring like he has in seasons past -- he's a four-time 30-goal scorer -- is imperative to the Wild's success this season. That's why Coyle, who has morphed into the Minnesota's Mr. Fixer, was shifted back to the middle.

"We have to get him [Vanek] going," Yeo said. "Skill guys have to play with skill players. I think we've talked a lot this year about how with Charlie we think there's another level to his game. What a great compliment to him it is that every time we've moved him off a line it's because we've wanted to get someone else going. We put him with Mikko [Koivu] because we think he can help Mikko; we put him with [Mikael Granlund] because we think he can help [Granlund]. And now we put him with Thomas because we think he can help Thomas."

Coyle said the shift from the wing back to the middle won't be hard for him. And if it means more of a chance to play with someone with the resume of Vanek, he's on board with the move.

"He's pretty dangerous around the net," Coyle said of Vanek. "He has the puck, you've always got to be ready because the puck could be on your stick in a second. ... He's pretty crafty. You have to be ready when he has the puck. He can do almost anything with it. He can score, he can pass. He can be dangerous. It's fun to play with him."

The Wild have won three in a row, but starting a three-game road trip, Yeo said they should have a high level of desperation.

"Hopefully we're not looking behind us," Yeo said. "We looked at some video and tried to address some areas where we have to be better. Even though we were winning three games in a row we found some areas that were slipping and we've got to make sure we're not content or satisfied with that by any means. We have to look at this game and we have to go all-in. It's a good opponent who's going to be motivated. It's a tough building to play in. Start of a three-game road trip, you always want to start these trips on the right foot. It'll be a good test."

The Flyers, who lost 2-0 Wednesday at the New York Rangers, will get one and possibly two injured defensemen back in the lineup, but will lose one.

Coach Craig Berube said Andrew MacDonald, out since sustaining a lower-body injury Oct. 22, will return to the lineup in place of Michael Del Zotto, who sustained a lower-body injury Wednesday.

"I feel good," MacDonald said. "Just one of those things where you have to feel it out. I've done some hard skates and some battling and stuff out there. I'm feeling good."

Berube said there's a chance Luke Schenn could play. He has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury but Berube said Schenn will skate in warm-ups and decide if he can play or not.

That's a change from what Schenn said after skating Thursday morning, when he said it was more likely he needed a few more days to recover.

"I would say I'm definitely close," Schenn said. "As long as things continue to progress and feel better, I think I'm getting really close. As long as there's no setbacks it's pretty encouraging. Over the past couple days it's come a long way."

Schenn and MacDonald were two of four Flyers on the ice Thursday morning, joined by goaltender Ray Emery and forward Jason Akeson.

Berube agreed that in an ideal world he'd give MacDonald and Schenn some more time to recover, but with Thursday starting a stretch of six games in 10 days, the Flyers don't have that luxury.

"Would have been nice to get them a little more time, but looking down the road we don't have much time," Berube said. "We play every other day. They want to play and they're ready. I trust the way they feel. They're good players and they're going help us."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter - Mikael Granlund - Justin Fontaine

Thomas Vanek - Charlie Coyle - Jason Zucker

Ryan Carter - Erik Haula - Stu Bickel

Matt Dumba - Keith Ballard

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Nate Prosser

Darcy Kuemper

Nicklas Backstrom

Scratched: Kyle Brodziak

Injured: Matt Cooke (lower body), Jonas Brodin (illness)

FLYERS

Brayden Schenn - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek

Matt Read - Sean Couturier - Wayne Simmonds

R.J. Umberger - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Vincent Lecavalier

Zac Rinaldo - Scott Laughton - Chris VandeVelde

Nicklas Grossman - Mark Streit

Nick Schultz - Braydon Coburn

Andrew MacDonald - Luke Schenn

Ray Emery

Steve Mason

Scratched: Jason Akeson, Carlo Colaiacovo

Injured: Kimmo Timonen (blood clots), Michael Raffl (lower body), Michael Del Zotto (lower body)

Status report: Bickel replaces Brodziak on the Wild's fourth line because Yeo said he wanted a more physical element on the road. "I like what he brought last time we were on the road," Yeo said of Bickel. "Coming in to play a team that I think will be very motivated and just want to make sure our guys are ready to play a physical-type game." ... Berube said if Schenn can't play Colaiacovo would go back in the lineup. ... Emery will play for the second time in November. He is 4-1-1 with one shutout, a 2.29 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in six games against the Wild.

Who's hot: Parise had two goals against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, his first game back after missing five games with a concussion. ... Voracek has at least a point in 15 of the Flyers' 17 games this season; the only two games he hasn't gotten a point, the Flyers were shut out.

Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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