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Bulmer could get next crack on Wild's second line

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo has been searching for someone to step up and add some punch to his second line.

Brett Bulmer, a second-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, might get the next chance to audition for that job.

Minnesota recalled Bulmer from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League, and he is expected to be in the lineup Thursday night against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.

Yeo said he hasn't finalized his lines, but he has an opening at right wing on his second line. Jason Zucker, who played that spot Wednesday night in a 2-1 loss against the Anaheim Ducks, will be a healthy scratch Thursday.

Yeo said "there's been talk" of dropping first-line right wing Jason Pominville to the second line, but he'd like to avoid that if possible.

"We kind of go through this every time," Yeo said. "When things aren't working out well enough for the second line or we're not getting enough scoring chances from everybody else, we break up the first line. We always do that. That's always the first thing we go to, and the next thing you know you're kind of weakening your first line.

"Somebody has to step up. Somebody has to grab that opportunity. Not to say that we won't do that, that we won't go that way, but the message is right now somebody's got to grab that opportunity. You need somebody to step up."

Bulmer, 21, played the first nine games of the 2011-12 season with Minnesota, totaling three assists and no goals, before returning to the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. He had just seven points in 43 games last season with the Houston Aeros of the AHL.

But this season, Bulmer has nine goals and three assists in 21 games for Iowa.

"He's been playing very well," Yeo said. "He's been scoring goals, but more importantly he's doing it within the identity that he has to bring as a hockey player. He's playing with an edge, he's playing the game hard, he's strong on the puck. A puck control guy, obviously, but he's playing well positionally. He's playing a very responsible, very hard game."

Yeo said he wants to see what Bulmer "can bring" on NHL ice.

"We all do. I think one thing that's been missing a little bit in some of these road games is a big body along the wall, puck strength, a guy who brings a bit of an edge," Yeo said. "These are all elements to his game when he's on it."

Bulmer did not arrive in San Jose in time for an optional morning skate. The only Wild players on the ice were Zucker, Mike Rupp, defenseman Nate Prosser and goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who will be in net against San Jose in the second of back-to-back games.

Sharks coach Todd McLellan juggled his lines, retuning Joe Pavelski to third-line center after two games as the right wing on the top line with center Logan Couture and left wing Patrick Marleau. Tyler Kennedy will take that spot on Couture's line.

Pavelski, Tommy Wingels and rookie Matt Nieto will be reunited on the third line for the first time since Nov. 7. That trio had success together for the first 16 games until Wingels replaced an injured Brent Burns on Joe Thornton's line. At that point, Pavelski led the team with 17 points, while Wingels had 11 points and Nieto six.

"When we're moving and supporting each other, that's when we'll be good, and it has to be there for us," Pavelski said. "If you can find that offensive punch for a third line, kind of like we had early, it makes it tough on the other teams."

Nieto was sent down to Worcester of the AHL in late November after being a healthy scratch for two games, but was recalled Sunday. He hasn't had a point in eight games since leaving Pavelski and Wingels, and he's excited about being reunited.

"It's nice," Nieto said. "That's kind of where I started in training camp, and we were together for about a month. Hopefully we can pick things back up right away and have an impact and get things going even-strength."

Here are the projected lineups for the Sharks and Wild:


Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns

Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tyler Kennedy

Tommy Wingels - Joe Pavelski - Matt Nieto

Freddie Hamilton - Andrew Desjardins - Martin Havlat

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle

Brad Stuart - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi

Alex Stalock

Scratched: James Sheppard, John McCarthy

Injured: Scott Hannan (upper body) Raffi Torres (knee surgery), Adam Burish (back surgery), Mike Brown (lower body)


Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter - Charlie Coyle - Brett Bulmer

Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Torrey Mitchell

Dany Heatley - Zenon Konopka - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Jared Spurgeon - Marco Scandella

Keith Ballard - Clayton Stoner

Niklas Backstrom

Josh Harding

Scratched: Mike Rupp, Jason Zucker, Nate Prosser

Injured: Mikael Granlund (concussion)

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