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Wild's Vanek hopes to be in lineup against Flames

by Aaron Vickers

WILD (28-21-7) at FLAMES (32-22-3)


CALGARY -- Forward Thomas Vanek is optimistic he'll be in the lineup Wednesday when the Minnesota Wild visit the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome in a pivotal Western Conference game.

Vanek, who was absent from practice Tuesday as a result of a lingering lower-body injury, said he felt good after Minnesota's morning skate.

"I think it got better as the skate went on," said Vanek, who has 12 goals and 36 points in 56 games for the Wild this season. "Hopefully it stays that way throughout the afternoon. For me, I think the way I look at it is if I can deal with the pain and can still contribute I'll play. I feel if I can't help the team then I think it's better if a different guy plays."

That guy could be Finnish standout Michael Keranen. The 25-year-old was recalled earlier Wednesday by the Wild and, while he didn't make it to Calgary in time for the skate, could still suit up for his first career NHL game.

Minnesota coach Mike Yeo was noncommittal in anointing Keranen as Vanek's replacement.

"I don't want to say that for sure, but just the fact that we have to make sure that Thomas is 100 percent before we put him in the lineup tonight and if he were not to play, that leaves a lot of things up in the air," Yeo said. "Let's see how Thomas is, first off. Talking to him yesterday I know he was feeling pretty good, so I expected him to be ready to go. We'll just make sure."

Keranen had 52 points and a plus-12 rating in 52 games for Ilves Tampere in Finland's SM Liiga in 2013-14, tying him for first in scoring and second in assists. He received the Lasse Oksanen Award, given to the best player during the regular season. He also received the "Golden Helmet" award as the league's top player as voted by the players, joining the likes of Tim Thomas, Saku Koivu and Brian Rafalski as recipients.

Keranen signed with the Wild on June 5, 2014 and has spent the season in the American Hockey League with Minnesota's AHL affiliate in Iowa, where he has nine goals and 32 points.

"What I've heard is first off, some of the things we're looking for -- smart player without the puck and plays responsible at both ends, but very crafty when he does get the puck -- some of those things we saw in training camp," Yeo said. "Some of those things that we felt and that we saw in training camp as far as a need to get used to the smaller ice surface and get used to the North American game.

"By all accounts he's been doing a good job of that and his game has been coming along really well."

Here are the projected lineups:


Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Jason Pominville

Thomas Vanek - Mikael Granlund - Justin Fontaine

Nino Niederreiter - Charlie Coyle - Jordan Schroeder

Stephane Veilleux - Kyle Brodziak - Erik Haula

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Nate Prosser - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Stu Bickel, Niklas Backstrom

Injured: Jason Zucker (clavicle), Matt Cooke (sports hernia), Ryan Carter (upper body), Keith Ballard (head/face)


Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanJiri Hudler

Lance BoumaMikael BacklundDavid Jones

Mason RaymondJosh JoorisCurtis Glencross

Brandon BolligMatt StajanJoe Colborne

Mark GiordanoTJ Brodie

Kris RussellDennis Wideman

Raphael DiazDeryk Engelland

Jonas Hiller

Karri Ramo

Scratched: Corey Potter, David Wolf

Injured: Sam Bennett (shoulder surgery), Ladislav Smid (upper body), Paul Byron (undisclosed)

Status report: The Wild didn't run lines Wednesday, but if Vanek plays are expected to deploy a similar look to their 3-2 loss Monday against the Vancouver Canucks. … Byron missed the morning skate for Calgary and is a game-time decision. Bollig is expected to take Byron's place in the lineup should he not be able to go.

Who's hot: Schroeder has one goal and three points in his past two games. … Jones has three goals and five points over a four-game point streak. Gaudreau also has a four-game point streak, all assists.

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