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Wild hope lineup changes create space for Vanek

by Dan Myers /

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild will make several tweaks to their lineup for Game 4 of their Second Round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2).

Chicago leads the best-of-7 series 3-0 and can advance to the Western Conference Final for the third consecutive season with a win at Xcel Energy Center. A Wild win would force Game 5 in Chicago on Saturday.

The biggest change for the Wild is moving third-line center Charlie Coyle to right wing on the second line, with left wing Jason Zucker and center Mikko Koivu. Coyle and Zucker have been linemates for much of the series but Coyle has played sparingly with Koivu this season. He has played right wing on Koivu's line in the past.

Coyle said communication will be the key to finding chemistry.

"Not only on the ice but on the bench; I think that helps a ton," Coyle said. "Just a lot of talk and we've already been talking before practice here. Just going over little things, little tendencies. I know me and Mikko have been apart for a little bit."

With Coyle moving to the second line, fourth-line center Kyle Brodziak was moved to Coyle's spot between Thomas Vanek and Nino Niederreiter.

Brodziak hasn't made the score sheet in the postseason but has been an effective player for the Wild in limited minutes. Wild coach Mike Yeo said he hopes putting Brodziak and Niederreiter, two bigger bodies, will help open space for Vanek, who is looking for his first goal in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I'd like to see that line be effective below the top of the circles," Yeo said. "It's not a team that has given us a lot of free ice from the top of the circles out, so how we play below the top of the circles, how we get down low, how we move our feet down there, is going to be important."

The Wild will swap out defenseman Jordan Leopold for Nate Prosser, who hasn't played since the regular-season finale April 11.

"It's not the first time I've done this; I've done this a few times," Prosser said. "Hopefully I'm just able to find my comfort zone right away and the group of guys will collect me in and there will be a lot of smiles tonight. I've just got to be ready to go. I'll have a good warmup and get my legs going and make sure my head is into it right away."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Bryan Bickell - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane

Patrick Sharp - Antoine Vermette - Teuvo Teravainen

Andrew Desjardins - Marcus Kruger - Andrew Shaw

Duncan Keith - Michal Rozsival

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Kimmo Timonen - Brent Seabrook

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Joakim Nordstrom, Daniel Carcillo, David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Michael Paliotta, Antti Raanta

Injured: Kris Versteeg (lower body)


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Thomas Vanek - Kyle Brodziak - Nino Niederreiter

Matt Cooke - Erik Haula - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Nate Prosser - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Ryan Carter, Sean Bergenheim, Christian Folin, Jordan Leopold, Niklas Backstrom

Injured: Chris Stewart (upper body), Justin Fontaine (lower body), Keith Ballard (concussion)

Status report: Haula will play his second game of the postseason. He received 10:03 of ice time in Game 2 and did not figure into the scoring.

Who's hot: Dubnyk has allowed four goals on 52 shots during the past two games. .. Kane has scored in four straight games, dating to Game 6 of the first round. He has outscored the Wild 3-1 in the past two games.

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