ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Entering the stretch run of the regular season, Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo said Thursday he's not ready to settle in on a group of six defensemen.
Yeo has a solid top four, with Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon playing or even exceeding 30 minutes a night, and a second pairing of Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella. But when it comes to his bottom pairing, Yeo isn't ready to commit.
Instead, the Wild will continue to play musical chairs, which is what Yeo has done since returning from the break for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Against the New York Rangers on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center, it's Nate Prosser's turn to sit in the press box. Clayton Stoner, who sat Tuesday, will be paired with Keith Ballard, who was a healthy scratch Sunday.
"We said we were going to go through this rotation a couple of times here and just kind of re-evaluate it after that," Yeo said.
Each of the three brings a different element to the lineup. Stoner is the biggest and could be the most physical player in Minnesota's lineup when he's in it. Ballard can contribute offensively and has the most NHL experience. Prosser is the best two-way player and is one of the Wild's finest penalty-killing defensemen.
Ballard and Stoner each have a minus-7 rating. Prosser is a plus-3.
"I don't think anyone has deserved to just come into the lineup and stay in the lineup," Yeo said. "We have to go by more than just one-game sample sizes."
For the Rangers, who had an optional skate Thursday, forward Daniel Carcillo will return to the lineup in place of Derek Dorsett. New York, on the front half of back-to-back games, will start Cam Talbot in goal. Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start Friday at the Winnipeg Jets and Sunday in New York against the San Jose Sharks.
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he has thought about tinkering with his lines but didn't say whether it was for Thursday or in the coming days. The game against Minnesota begins a stretch of four games in six nights.
Rangers forwards Mats Zuccarello and Brad Richards, held off the ice during practice Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C., for maintenance days, skated Thursday and are ready to go.
Here are the projected lineups for the Rangers and Wild:
Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Rick Nash
Carl Hagelin - Brad Richards - Martin St. Louis
Benoit Pouliot - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello
Brian Boyle - Dominic Moore - Daniel Carcillo
Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
Marc Staal - Anton Stralman
John Moore - Kevin Klein
Scratched: Derek Dorsett, Raphael Diaz, Justin Falk
Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville
Matt Moulson - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle
Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Nino Niederreiter
Dany Heatley - Erik Haula - Cody McCormick
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Marco Scandella
Clayton Stoner - Keith Ballard
Scratched: Justin Fontaine, Mike Rupp, Nate Prosser
Injured: Jason Zucker (lower body), Josh Harding (illness), Niklas Backstrom (abdominal)