WILD (18-19-5) at SABRES (14-27-3)
TV: FS-N, FS-WI, MSG-B, BELL TV
BUFFALO -- The Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres are both looking to end lengthy losing streaks at First Niagara Center on Thursday.
The Wild are winless in six consecutive games and goaltending has been a problem during Minnesota’s losing streak. The Wild acquired goalie Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday in exchange for a 2015 third-round pick. Dubnyk will make his Wild debut against the Sabres.
“He looked good in the morning,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “That’s not necessarily a great indicator, but I think we’re just excited. I know from playing against him that I really do believe this is a guy that can come in and be successful here.”
Dubnyk went 13-9-5 with the Coyotes with a .916 save percentage and a 2.72 goals-against average.
“It was a bit of a roller coaster,” Dubnyk said. “I didn’t see it coming. I was aware of rumors and whatnot, but I was just driving home from the rink and got a call. As the day went on and it kind of settled in, I just got more and more excited. It’s an opportunity for me to come play and obviously with the way things were in Arizona with [Mike Smith] there, they’ve got a great goalie locked up for a lot of years. To get a chance to come somewhere and play games is exciting for me so I’m looking forward to that.”
The Wild will be without defenseman Ryan Suter after he was suspended two games for elbowing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Steve Downie in the Wild’s 7-2 loss on Tuesday. The Wild recalled defenseman Matt Dumba from Iowa of the American Hockey League on Wednesday and placed defensemen Marco Scandella and Justin Falk on injured reserve.
"It's been a good experience down there," Dumba said. "I've been playing lots of minutes and I think my game's come in a good way. I just want to keep going on that. Keep improving every day."
Dumba has a goal and three assists for the Wild in 20 games this season.
The Sabres set a franchise record with eight consecutive losses in regulation. Buffalo is also looking to spark their league-worst power play and will use 6-foot-8 defenseman Tyler Myers in front of the net.
“I guess I’m used to being in that area defensively, but it’ll be different,” Myers said. “Usually I’m trying to carry out the puck, and now I’ll be trying score. So it’s a different look.”
The Sabres have scored 11 goals in 122 chances on the power play, good for nine percent.
“I think that net-front presence is so important on power plays nowadays,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “If you get a big man like that, he doesn’t just take away the one defender to defend him but sometimes two because he has such a long reach.
“One thing about Tyler, he can make a good pass and he understands the game very well. So not only is he big, but also he’s intelligent also. So right now we’re just trying to find a way to get something going and hopefully that’ll work.”
Forward Chris Stewart returns to the lineup after he missed their 3-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday with an illness. Stewart did not take part in the optional skate on Thursday, but is expected to replace Zac Dalpe in the lineup. Jhonas Enroth will start in goal.
Here are the projected lines:
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker – Charlie Coyle – Nino Niederreiter
Thomas Vanek – Erik Haula – Justin Fontaine
Matt Cooke – Kyle Brodziak – Ryan Carter
Jared Spurgeon – Christian Folin
Jonas Brodin – Nate Prosser
Jonathon Blum – Matt Dumba
Scratched: Jordan Schroeder
Suspended: Ryan Suter
Injured: Marco Scandella (upper body), Justin Falk (upper body), Darcy Kuemper (undisclosed), Mikael Granlund (upper body)
Matt Moulson – Zemgus Girgensons – Tyler Ennis
Brian Flynn – Torrey Mitchell – Drew Stafford
Nicolas Deslauriers – Philip Varone – Chris Stewart
Matt Ellis – Cody Hodgson – Patrick Kaleta
Tyler Myers – Josh Gorges
Nikita Zadorov – Rasmus Ristolainen
Andrej Meszaros – Mike Weber
Scratched: Andre Benoit, Tyson Strachan, Zac Dalpe
Injured: Brian Gionta (head), Marcus Foligno (hand), Cody McCormick (blood clot)
Status Report: Gionta skated again on Thursday and is hoping to return to the lineup soon. He’s been out since he took a hit from Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski on Dec. 21… Wild goalie John Curry worked out while the rest of the team skated on Thursday. He is expected to be sent back to Iowa with the arrival of Dubnyk.
Who’s Hot: Stewart’s return would be welcome to Buffalo. He has eight points in his past 13 games with two goals and six assists.