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Wild host Blue Jackets to close out homestand

by John Kreiser

BLUE JACKETS (34-26-6) at WILD (35-22-9)


Last 10: Columbus 5-3-2; Minnesota 6-1-3

Season series: The former Central Division rivals will play for the second and final. The Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Minnesota Wild 4-0 at Nationwide Arena on Dec. 6.

Big story: Two teams trying to hang on to positions in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in their respective conferences meet as the Wild end a four-game homestand in which they've gone 1-0-2.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets left a point on the table Thursday when they lost 4-3 at home to the San Jose Sharks in a shootout, though the one they got assured that they'll begin the weekend in third place in the Metropolitan Division and could pass the New York Rangers by beating the Wild.

"The one point doesn't help us as much as we want," center Brandon Dubinsky said. "But it doesn't really hurt us either."

The good news as they prepare to face the Wild is that reinforcements are on the way. Center Artem Anisimov should return after missing the game against the Sharks to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Defenseman Fedor Tyutin (ankle) was activated off injured reserve Friday and could be back in the lineup as well.

Wild: Minnesota gave defenseman Ryan Suter a huge contract in July 2012 to lure him from the Nashville Predators, and Suter is working hard for his money: He leads the NHL in average ice time at 29:56 -- nearly two-and-a-half minutes more than anyone else.

But the Wild apparently aren't worried that he's playing too much as they churn through a season-ending stretch of 20 games in 37 days. He played 34:12 in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, and coach Mike Yeo admits the Wild are now trying to monitor Suter's ice time. He logged 28:55 on Thursday in a 2-1 victory against the Rangers -- a ton of ice for most players but Suter's second-lightest workload in the past 13 games.

Suter will take all the ice time Yeo and his staff will give him.

"Honestly, I feel good," he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "When I came back from the Olympics, mentally, I think I was a little drained. Last two games, I felt good and felt like I had a lot more jump and was back on track."

Who's hot: Columbus forward Ryan Johansen scored his team-leading and career-best 26th goal in the shootout loss to the Sharks. Dubinsky has a goal and three points in the past two games. … Minnesota assistant captain Zach Parise had the game-winner against the Rangers and has scored in each of Minnesota's past two games.

Injury report: The Blue Jackets are playing without defenseman Ryan Murray (knee) and forward Jarred Boll (ankle). … The Wild are without their first two goaltenders, Niklas Backstrom (lower body) and Josh Harding (illness), as well as forward Jason Zucker (leg).

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