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Torchetti makes NHL return, coaches Wild vs. Canucks

Minnesota has lost eight straight and 13 of 14

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

WILD (23-22-10) at CANUCKS (22-21-12)

TV: 10 p.m. ET; FS-N, FS-WI, SNP, NHL.TV

VANCOUVER -- Minnesota Wild coach John Torchetti isn't wasting any time putting his stamp a team that has lost eight straight games.

Torchetti has served as interim coach for the Florida Panthers (2003-04) and Los Angeles Kings (2005-06), and has been an assistant with the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Torchetti, who took over after Mike Yeo was fired on Saturday, will have three new forward lines and two new defensive pairings for his first game behind the bench against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. 

Minnesota's first line remains intact, but second line center Mikael Granlund will have two new wingers, including Thomas Vanek, who moves over from the left wing on the third line to the right side on the second. Jason Zucker will move up from the fourth line to play with Vanek and Granlund, and wingers Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville drop down to play on either side of Erik Haula on the third line. 

"We'll see what happens with the lineup day-by-day," said Torchetti, who consulted his new assistant coaches on the changes. "You have to earn your ice, you have to earn your spot, but it's a clean slate. Everybody is in a good spot and let's get to your game. If you are not scoring goals be a great F1, be a great F2 be a great F3, be a great tracker, be great defensively, block shots and we'll build your game from there." 

The defensive changes are partly the result of Jared Spurgeon returning after missing the past three games with a bruise. Rookie Mike Reilly will remain in the lineup; Nate Prosser will be a healthy scratch. Reilly will play with Christian Folin, a pairing that Torchetti had together while coaching the Iowa Wild, Minnesota's American Hockey League affiliate this season. 

There are 12 players on the current Minnesota roster that have played at least some games for Torchetti in Iowa, which should help his transition back to the NHL. 

"Yeah, they understand what I am expecting from them," said Torchetti, adding those expectations increase in the NHL. "I expect them to peak even more. There's got to be a better ceiling because we can't stay on the same floor." 

The Canucks will make some changes after losing 5-2 to the last-place Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Forward Alex Friesen, a fourth-year pro picked 172nd in the 2010 NHL Draft by the Canucks, will make his NHL debut on the fourth line after recording eight goals and 18 points in 41 games with the Utica Comets in the AHL this season. 

Friesen, who has his parents, brother, sister, grandfather and aunt flying in from Toronto for the game, will be the eighth Canucks player to make his NHL debut this season. 

"It's encouraging because you know there's opportunity," Friesen, 25, said of all the call-ups that have played. "If you play well and the time is right you could get your chance." 

Vancouver will also make a change on defense, re-inserting Alex Biega into the lineup for Yannick Weber, who struggled against Toronto after sitting out the previous 10 games, clearing waivers and being sent to the AHL before top defenseman Alexander Edler was injured. Rookie Ben Hutton will take over Edler's spot on the point of the first power play unit after it generated two shots on three chances with Weber there. 

"Just get the puck to (Daniel and Henrik Sedin) and see what we can do," Hutton said. 

Jacob Markstrom, who is 5-0-1 in his last six starts, will start. 

Here are the projected lineups: 


Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle  

Jason Zucker - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek 

Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville 

Ryan Carter - Jarret Stoll - Justin Fontaine  

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon 

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba  

Mike Reilly - Christian Folin 

Devan Dubnyk  

Darcy Kuemper   

Injured: Jared Spurgeon (bruise), Jonas Brodin (foot) 

Scratched: Chris Porter, Niklas Backstrom, Nate Prosser 


Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Jannik Hansen  

Sven Baertschi - Bo Horvat - Jake Virtanen  

Alex Friesen - Linden Vey - Radim Vrbata  

Alexandre Burrows - Jared McCann - Derek Dorsett  

Dan Hamhuis - Christopher Tanev  

Ben Hutton - Luca Sbisa  

Matt Bartkowski - Alex Biega 

Jacob Markstrom 

Ryan Miller  

Injured: Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alexander Edler (fractured leg) 

Scratched: Adam Cracknell, Yannick Weber, Emerson Etem  

Status Report: Horvat was going to be a game-time decision after blocking a shot killing a 5-on-3 against Toronto on Saturday missing practice Sunday, but said "it felt great" after taking part in an optional skate Monday morning and he is "ready to go." 

Who's Hot: Horvat has 15 points in his past 16 games. … Vanek has one goal and three assists during a three-game point streak.

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