CHICAGO — Erik Haula became a breakout performer for the Minnesota Wild last season during a Western Conference Second Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Coach Mike Yeo would like to see a repeat performance.
Forward Justin Fontaine was injured in Game 1 of this series against the Blackhawks and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. He will not play Sunday in Game 2 (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2) against Chicago as Minnesota tries to draw even after a 4-3 win Friday by the Blackhawks.
Haula, who was a healthy scratch for Minnesota's first seven 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs games, will replace Fontaine and center the fourth line between Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak.
"He's got a lot of speed. That's one area of our game that can get better," Cooke said. "We can attack with more speed, and we obviously have to be good with the puck to do that. He brings that element. He's a big body, competes and he's hungry. He's been sitting out for a while. He's not taking for granted this opportunity to get back in there."
Haula had six goals and 15 points in 46 games during the 2013-14 season as a rookie, but he had three goals and five points in six games against the Blackhawks in the playoffs. This season was not the big step forward that might have been expected for the 24-year-old Finnish native.
He had seven goals and 14 points in 72 games, and ended up a healthy scratch three times near the end of the regular season before not earning a place in the lineup for any of Minnesota's first seven playoff games.
"It's been a teaching lesson, I guess," Haula said. "Mentally it's not been that easy at times and I've had great help from my teammates, family and friends and coaches, but I've been plugging away and working as hard as I can and doing my best."
The Wild have played in United Center seven times in the past three postseasons and have yet to win. Maybe adding the guy who conjured some unexpected magic against the Blackhawks last season will help the Wild even this best-of-7 series and end the streak.
"What we'd like to see from him is his speed has to be a factor," Yeo said. "The way he's skating through the middle of the ice, the way he's supporting pucks, the way he's challenging the defensemen and pushing them back. But also, more than anything else, it's his battle level; it's his defensive game. Those guys are going to be on the ice against good players and they have to make sure they're up to that task."
Here are the projected lineups:
Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Chris Stewart
Thomas Vanek - Charlie Coyle - Nino Niederreiter
Matt Cooke - Erik Haula - Kyle Brodziak
Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Jordan Leopold - Matt Dumba
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
Scratched: Joakim Nordstrom, Daniel Carcillo, David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Michael Paliotta, Antti Raanta
Injured: Kris Versteeg (lower body)
Scratched: Ryan Carter, Jordan Schroeder, Christian Folin, Nate Prosser, Sean Bergenheim, Niklas Backstrom
Injured: Justin Fontaine (lower body), Keith Ballard (concussion)
Status report: Haula was second among Wild forwards during the regular season in shorthanded time on ice per game, so he will likely move into the penalty kill rotation.
Who's hot: Parise has five points in his past three games, including back-to-back two-point games. He has two points in four of Minnesota's seven playoff games.