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Dalpe Eyes First Playoff Trip In Wild Debut

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

Forward Zac Dalpe has never been on an NHL playoff team before.

"But I don't want to jinx it," he said.

Dalpe finds himself in a unique situation on Tuesday: He is set to make his Minnesota Wild debut in game number 81 of the season, on a night a win in any fashion would clinch the Wild a spot in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It's been a long season for Dalpe, who's battled through injuries to find himself on the threshold of his first NHL postseason.

"It's something unfortunately I haven't been able to do in my career, " Dalpe said. "It's an important game into April, and I'm just excited to play."

Dalpe's long road to the Minnesota Wild's locker room began with getting a late start to training camp.

When he arrived, he impressed Wild brass, but with a smaller sample and shorter tryout, began the season in the American Hockey League.

But after playing one game in Iowa to begin the season, Dalpe tore the labrum in his left hip, requiring surgery.

After returning about three months later, and playing in four games, Dalpe sustained a knee injury that again kept him out an extended period.

"That was probably worse than the original surgery injury, but long days in physio, and then back to a Des Moines apartment," Dalpe said. "I'm happy to be in Minnesota for sure."

Though his knee injury did not require surgery, it was another 37 days between AHL games for Dalpe, who has 26 shots on goal in eight games for Iowa this season.

"The second injury, a lot of people thought it was off my first injury, but it was something completely different," he said. "Just rehab six days a week with a day off, and you have a goal in mind as to when you want to come back, and we reached that goal.

"It's been a frustrating year; that's for sure. I've been lucky enough in my career to not get hurt as much, and it all came in one year here.

"Hopefully I get it out of the way, and no more injuries."

Wild interim Head Coach got a brief look at Dalpe when he debuted in Iowa at the start of the season. By the time Torchetti had been promoted to Minnesota on Feb. 14, Dalpe was still rehabbing from his hip surgery, returning to Iowa's lineup three days later.

"He's been through a lot," Torchetti said. "The second one, when he went down, was a little tough for him.

"He got good results, and came back. He's a great kid, he's a hard worker, and he put his time in, so I'm sure he'll be pretty fired up for the game tonight."

Dalpe, who played in two preseason games for Minnesota, getting into a fight in Saskatoon in a game against the Edmonton Oilers, described himself as a solid two-way forward and a willing shooter. 

He'll get an opportunity to play on a line Tuesday with some offensive firepower, to the right of Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle.

"Any situation is good; I'm happy to be dressing in this locker room," Dalpe said. "The thing with [Coyle] and [Zucker] is they like to play at a fast pace. Not to say nobody else does, but hopefully we can build off each other. I like to play with speed, too. It will be a good line there."

The move, according to Torchetti, allows the Wild to keep Mikael Granlund with Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, a line Torchetti feels has been very effective lately.

Dalpe has been to the playoffs in the AHL, but having been a part Carolina Hurricanes, Vancouver Canucks, and Buffalo Sabres organizations seven-year professional career, never at the next level.

Like his training camp, his Iowa stint has only provided a glimpse of Dalpe. But now in Minnesota, he said he's hoping he can bring what makes him effective to the NHL.

And, in turn, he said he hopes he can make his first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"With the eight games that I've played total, I know it's not a big sample size, but I've showed what I can do as far as playing with the puck, and speed, and hopefully I continue that here tonight," he said.

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