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Wild's Moulson returns to Coliseum to face Islanders

by Brian Compton

WILD (35-23-10) at ISLANDERS (26-34-9)


Last 10: Minnesota 5-2-3; New York 4-5-1

Season series: This is the second and final game between the Minnesota Wild and New York Islanders. New York earned a 5-4 victory at Xcel Energy Center on Dec. 29.

Big story: Wild left wing Matt Moulson returns to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the first time since the Islanders traded him to the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 27 in a deal that brought Thomas Vanek to New York. Vanek (Montreal Canadiens) and Moulson were sent elsewhere at the NHL Trade Deadline.

Moulson scored 118 goals over the course of four-plus seasons with the Islanders. He can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

"I made some of the best friends I've had in my life with that team. We were a pretty close group," Moulson told Newsday. "To be taken away from that was tough. It was extremely tough on myself and my family, especially coming out of the blue like it did for me."

Team Scope:

Wild: A three-game road trip got off to a rough start for Minnesota on Monday night when it dropped a 4-1 decision to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Jason Pominville cut a 2-0 deficit in half late in the second period, but the red-hot Bruins responded with two more goals in the third to put the game away.

The Wild still are in good shape to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs; despite the loss Monday, they remain in possession of the first wild card in the Western Conference, three points ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes.

"It's tough to sit here after a 4-1 loss, but you can't be too disappointed with the effort of our guys tonight," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "And obviously kind of a tough bounce on their first goal, but I thought we were really taking the play to them. Even with that our guys were staying with it after two periods. They get a late goal and we're still right there. And obviously that's not an easy team to come back against."

Islanders: It's been an extremely disappointing season for New York, which is headed for an early spring after ending a six-year playoff drought last April. However, right wing Kyle Okposo has enjoyed an outstanding season. The power forward, who ranks in the top five in scoring in the NHL with 69 points (27 goals, 42 assists), continues to produce without injured captain John Tavares.

On Monday, Okposo was named the Second Star of the Week after racking up seven points in three games. He had his 21st multi-point game of the season Saturday when the Islanders earned a 4-1 win against Buffalo.

"It's a nice honor [to] recognize play from the last week," Okposo said after the Islanders practiced at the Coliseum on Monday. "It's a testament to the team and how we played the last three games. I think it started off in Vancouver that third period and then we had a strong 60 minutes against San Jose and couldn't pull it out. We probably had our most complete 60 minutes against Buffalo the other night."

Who's hot: Pominville has four goals and two assists in his past five games for the Wild and defenseman Ryan Suter has assists in back-to-back games. … Islanders center Frans Nielsen has four goals and two assists in his past five games and rookie center Ryan Strome has two goals in his past three.

Injury report: Wild forward Jason Zucker (leg surgery), and goalies Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding (illness) are on injured reserve. … The Islanders will be without Tavares (knee) and forward Michael Grabner (concussion).

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