WILD (31-22-7) at PREDATORS (41-13-7)
NASHVILLE -- Forward Sean Bergenheim is expected to make his debut for the Minnesota Wild on Thursday against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Bergenheim was traded to the Wild from the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. He has eight goals and 10 assists in 39 games.
"It was an interesting 24 hours because I had to travel quite a bit," Bergenheim said. "The mood is very, very good. I'm very excited."
Bergenheim joined the top line alongside Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek at the morning skate. The addition of Bergenheim will force new line combinations for Minnesota against Nashville.
"We think that where he's at with Mikko, the way that Mikko has been playing, that line has an ability to create," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "But we also think that they need somebody who is going to be on the puck. Somebody who is going to hound pucks, somebody who is going to forecheck, somebody who is going to go to the net, and also somebody who is going to be responsible at both ends of the ice. We'll see how it works out."
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk was first off the ice and is expected to start against Nashville. Dubnyk has been a difference-maker for Minnesota, going 13-3-1 since being acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 14.
"Our confidence was shot, that was the biggest thing," Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said. "We had no confidence in ourselves, and just a fresh guy in here kind of revamped us and we've been playing well ever since."
Minnesota not only will have to defend against Nashville's skilled forward group but also an active defense corps. Predators defensemen Roman Josi and Shea Weber are third and fourth, respectively, on the Predators in scoring, and the defense as a whole has the green light to activate offensively when they see fit.
"I think they always have," Suter said. "I think they're just scoring now, that's the biggest thing. Nashville's defense has always had the green light to go, so I think now the puck is just going in the net and it's drawing a little more attention to it."
Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis has missed 21 games because of a lower-body injury but could return against Minnesota. Ellis practiced on a pair with Seth Jones on Wednesday.
"We haven't made that decision yet," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said of Ellis. "I haven't seen him since he's come off the ice so he's still listed as day-to-day."
The Predators expect to play a desperate Wild team after they lost to the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Tuesday.
"They've been playing really well," Weber said. "Obviously getting good goaltending and playing a solid game. They're desperate; they're fighting for their playoff lives. They obviously slipped a little bit the other night against Edmonton but that happens. Just shows that they're going to be even more desperate tonight."
Here are the projected lineups:
Sean Bergenheim - Mikko Koivu - Thomas Vanek
Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville
Nino Niederreiter - Charlie Coyle - Jordan Schroeder
Erik Haula - Kyle Brodziak - Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba
Nate Prosser - Christian Folin
Scratched: Darcy Kuemper, Michael Keranen, Stephane Veilleux
Injured: Jared Spurgeon (upper body), Jason Zucker (clavicle), Matt Cooke (sports hernia), Ryan Carter (upper body), Keith Ballard (head/face)
Filip Forsberg - Mike Ribeiro - James Neal
Matt Cullen - Mike Fisher - Craig Smith
Colin Wilson - Calle Jarnkrok - Mike Santorelli
Eric Nystrom - Paul Gaustad - Gabriel Bourque
Roman Josi - Shea Weber
Mattias Ekholm - Cody Franson
Victor Bartley - Seth Jones
Scratched: Taylor Beck
Injured: Ryan Ellis (lower body), Anton Volchenkov (lower body)
Status report: Minnesota made changes to all four forward lines at the morning skate with the addition of Bergenheim. … Dubnyk, Backstrom and Kuemper all participated in the morning skate. … Nashville held an optional morning skate. … Rinne is expected to start for the Predators.
Who's hot: Parise has two goals and two assists in his past four games and leads Minnesota with 46 points this season. … Smith has five goals and two assists in his past six games.