ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter and New York Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck will each get a crack at his former team for the first time Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.
The Wild sent a third-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft (No. 70) and Clutterbuck to New York in a trade for Niederreiter during the draft this summer.
Clutterbuck, a fan favorite in Minnesota, was routinely among the NHL leaders in hits during his time with the Wild, racking up 1,457 of them and scoring 110 points in six seasons. He has four goals and two assists in 33 games with New York and his 120 hits are No. 11 in the League, despite the fact he missed six games with an injury.
“All of our players are well aware of what he can bring,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “He does very well, even when he’s not hitting on the ice. Even when that’s not a threat, the players on the ice think it’s a threat. We’ve got to be ready to execute, but certainly you have to make sure you have your head up.”
Niederreiter was the Islanders’ first-round pick and the fifth selection in the 2010 draft. He played 64 games with New York during two seasons, scoring two goals and one assist. He played in 55 games in 2011-12, scoring one goal in his most extensive action with the Islanders, but he was a minus-29 that season.
With Minnesota, Niederreiter has already established new career highs in goals (six) and assists (11) in 40 games this season and is a team-best plus-5. He’ll take the place of injured Zach Parise (foot) on Minnesota’s top line Sunday.
“It’s getting better and better each game,” Niederreiter said of his own level of play. “[This will be] and emotional game for sure, I was drafted there, spent some time there, so it’s going to be emotional for myself.”
The Islanders will be without forwards Michael Grabner and Josh Bailey after they suffered injuries Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils. Islanders coach Jack Capuano said each is day-to-day. John Tavares, who missed the game Saturday against New Jersey with a lower-body injury, will return.
Minnesota has injury concerns of its own after Parise was placed on injured reserve Saturday with a lower-body injury. He will miss his third straight game Sunday. The team will be getting goaltender Josh Harding back, however, after he missed four games while adjusting his medication for multiple sclerosis.
Harding leads the NHL in goals against average (1.51) and is second in save percentage (.939) and shutouts (three). His 18 victories are fifth-best. He’s 17-2-0 in his past 19 home starts.
Here are the projected lineups:
Thomas Vanek - Brock Nelson - Kyle Okposo
Peter Regin - Frans Nielsen - Cal Clutterbuck
Matt Martin - Ryan Strome - Colin McDonald
Eric Boulton - Casey Cizikas
Andrew MacDonald - Thomas Hickey
Calvin de Haan - Travis Hamonic
Brian Strait - Matt Carkner
Injured: John Tavares (lower body), Michael Grabner (undisclosed), Josh Bailey (lower body).
Nino Niederreiter - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle
Dany Heatley - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville
Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Mike Rupp
Stephane Veilleux - Torrey Mitchell - Justin Fontaine
Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Nate Prosser - Keith Ballard
Scratched: Zenon Konopka
Injured: Zach Parise (lower body), Clayton Stoner (lower body)