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Wild turn to Backstrom against Panthers, Luongo

by Staff

WILD (11-8-0) at PANTHERS (7-5-6)


Goalie Niklas Backstrom will start for the Minnesota Wild on Monday when they conclude a three-game road trip against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center.

The Wild had a four-game winning streak snapped Saturday at the Tampa Bay Lightning. Goalie Darcy Kuemper had a 1.60 goals-against average during the win streak, but Backstrom will make his first start since Nov. 16, when he was pulled after allowing three-period goals in an eventual 4-3 Minnesota win against the Winnipeg Jets.

Backstrom is 5-0-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in six career starts against the Panthers.

"We've got to make sure that we're keeping him involved and giving him the opportunity to show he can come in and win hockey games," coach Mike Yeo told the Wild website. "This was something that was on the schedule and we had aimed for, but it wasn't just an easy decision, not because of [Backstrom], but because of Kuemper."

Kuemper is expected to start Wednesday against the Los Angeles Kings at Xcel Energy Center.

Goalie Roberto Luongo, who made 48 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday and has stopped 76 of the past 80 shots he's faced, will start for the Panthers. Luongo is 5-1-1 with a 1.13 GAA and three shutouts in his past seven starts against Minnesota and faces the Wild for the first time since his trade from the Vancouver Canucks to Florida last season.

Luongo is among the busiest goalies in the NHL having faced at least 30 shots nine times. The Panthers allow 31.1 shots per game, 21st in the League. A Wild team that has scored six goals in its past three road games will look to take advantage.

"When you're not scoring goals, you obviously need to shoot the puck more," defenseman Ryan Suter said, according to the Wild website. "Good things happen when you shoot the puck, you can create off that.

"It's a good message. Tonight, hopefully we get a lot of shots and get rewarded for it."

Here are the projected lineups:


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter - Mikko Koivu - Justin Fontaine

Thomas Vanek - Charlie Coyle - Jason Zucker

Ryan Carter - Erik Haula - Kyle Brodziak

Matt Dumba - Keith Ballard

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Nate Prosser

Nicklas Backstrom

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Stu Bickel

Injured: Matt Cooke (lower body), Jonas Brodin (illness)


Sean BergenheimAleksander BarkovBrad Boyes

Jonathan HuberdeauNick BjugstadScottie Upshall

Jussi JokinenBrandon PirriJimmy Hayes

Tomas KopeckyDerek MacKenzieShawn Thornton

Brian CampbellAaron Ekblad

Willie MitchellDmitry Kulikov

Colby RobakErik Gudbranson

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched: Tomas Fleischmann, Vincent Trocheck, Dylan Olsen

Injured: Dave Bolland (groin)

Status report: Brodin has started working out, but Yeo did not have an update on when he'd return to the ice, according to the Wild website. Though on the trip, Cooke has been held to off-ice workouts and also has no timetable for a return. "He's a guy we can feel the loss of him in our lineup," Yeo said. "His board work, his controlling pucks in the offensive zone, his penalty killing, his physicality and his speed. We've definitely felt his absence." … Pirri, Bergenheim and Upshall skated Monday and are back in the Panthers lineup. Upshall missed two games with a lower-body injury. Bergenheim (core) and Pirri (concussion) each missed the past 10. "Pretty well everyone is ready to go except for [Bolland]," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant told the Sun-Sentinel. "Some guys are biting at the bit. Pirri was playing real well before he got hurt …they're real hungry and have skated hard the last four or five days." To make room for Pirri, Rocco Grimaldi was reassigned to San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Sunday.

Who's hot: Niederreiter has six points (five goals, one assist) in his past five games for the Wild … Bjugstad is riding a four-game point streak for the Panthers (five goals, three assists) after scoring two goals and an assist in his first 14 … Ekblad has nine points in his past 11 games … Huberdeau has five points (goal, four assists) in his past five games.

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