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Wild aiming for return to playoff spot

Minnesota needs win to get into wild card; New Jersey's Greene to play 300th straight game

by Mike G. Morreale @MikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com staff writer

WILD (32-27-11) at DEVILS (33-30-7)

TV: 7 p.m. ET; FS-N, MSG, NHL.TV

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Minnesota Wild can jump back into a Stanley Cup Playoff spot when they play the New Jersey Devils on Thursday at Prudential Center.

The Wild are one point behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card in the Western Conference with 12 games remaining. They need a victory to pass the Avalanche; one point would match them with the Avalanche, but the Avalanche has the regulation-overtime win (ROW) tiebreaker, 33-31.

Minnesota held an optional skate Thursday that didn't reveal much about the potential lineup. But at practice Wednesday, interim coach John Torchetti changed his top forward lines.

Left wing Jason Zucker, a healthy scratch the past two games, likely will play on the top line with center Mikko Koivu and right wing Charlie Coyle. Torchetti told the Wild website Wednesday that he hopes the change will help energize Zucker, who has one goal and two assists in his past 21 games.

"[Zucker's] speed should be a threat every night," Torchetti said. "[Zucker] is a big part of our team going forward. He hasn't had the success all year. He just has to get back to his game and he has to be a solid two-way player."

Zach Parise, who spent his first seven NHL seasons with the Devils before signing with the Wild in July 2012, likely will move to left wing on the second line alongside center Mikael Granlund and right wing Thomas Vanek. The switch would be significant for Torchetti since the Parise-Koivu-Coyle line had remained intact since he replaced Mike Yeo on Feb. 13.

The Wild, who will end a three-game road trip Thursday, are 9-5-1 under Torchetti.

Devils captain Andy Greene is expected to play in his 300th straight game Thursday. The streak, which began March 6, 2012 against the New York Rangers, is the Devils' sixth-longest games-played streak, and second-longest among Devils defensemen, behind Ken Daneyko's 388 straight games.

"There were some days I thought I'd be close to not being ready to play but I'm proud of this run," Greene said. "You always want to play every single game, and knock on wood I've been able to. I haven't really been hit with the flu bug or anything like that. If I felt I wouldn't be able to go I wouldn't play to keep the streak going. That would be really selfish and hurt the team. If I couldn't go I wouldn't force it."

Devils first-year coach John Hynes said he feels lucky to have Greene as his team's captain.

"I think what has stood out to me about Andy Greene is his professionalism and humility," Hynes said. "He's been in the League a long time. But when you see how he goes about his business every day, and dealing with him on a daily basis, it's pretty impressive. He never overlooks the daily things in preparing himself, what his routines are and how he is in practice and in meetings. He's an every-day guy and that's been the most impressive part."

The Devils are 4-9-0 in the past 13 games and seven points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference with 12 games left. The Flyers also have one game in hand.

Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid is expected to make his fifth straight start since Cory Schneider suffered a Grade 1 MCL sprain in his right knee in a loss at the Dallas Stars on March 4.

The Devils have lost three straight home games and been outscored 13-2 during that stretch.

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek

Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Justin Fontaine

Jordan Schroeder - Jarret Stoll - David Jones

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin - Nate Prosser

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Injured: Jason Pominville (lower body)

Scratched: Mike Reilly, Chris Porter, Ryan Carter

DEVILS

Tyler Kennedy - Adam Henrique - Devante Smith-Pelly

Reid Boucher - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri

Joseph Blandisi - Sergey Kalinin - Mike Sislo

Bobby Farnham - Stephen Gionta - Tuomo Ruutu

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

John Moore - David Schlemko

Jon Merrill - Damon Severson

Keith Kinkaid

Yann Danis

Injured: Patrik Elias (right knee), Jiri Tlusty (right wrist), Michael Cammalleri (right hand), Cory Schneider (right knee), Jordin Tootoo (upper body)

Scratched: Seth Helgeson, David Warsofsky

Status report: Pominville, who last played March 6 against the St. Louis Blues, skated the past two days but will miss his fourth straight game. … Carter likely will be replaced in the lineup by Schroeder, who will play with Stoll and Jones. … Torchetti said he will wait until after pre-game warmup to finalize the lineup. … The only lineup change for the Devils will be on defense as Merrill and Severson, who were out the past three games, replace Helgeson and Warsofsky.

Who's hot: Dubnyk is 5-1-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .919 save-percentage in his past seven starts. … Smith-Pelly has four goals and six points in six games with the Devils.

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