For the final time this season, greetings from Xcel Energy Center, as the Wild hosts the Boston Bruins tonight in the home finale to the 2018-19 season.
Both sides will be going against former familiar faces, as Wild forward Ryan Donato will play his hometown team and the club that drafted him in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft.
Bruins forward Charlie Coyle played parts of seven seasons with the Wild, breaking in with Minnesota in 2013 after he was acquired in a draft-day trade with San Jose in 2011.
Video: Donato, Coyle face former team in St. Paul
The two were traded for each other, with the Wild also netting a fifth-round draft pick this summer, on Feb. 20.
Coyle played 479 games with the Wild, scoring 91 goals and 242 points. He was also a force in the community and a favorite of both fans and coaches in his time here.
"He's one of the best kids you're ever gonna meet in your life," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said of Coyle. "He was perfect, as far as personality, as far a guy who went out of his way for charities. On the ice, you always wanted a little bit more from, you always thought there was more in him. But a solid person and a great player to have on your team."
Donato has made an immediate impact in Minnesota, scoring four goals and 16 points in 20 games. He leads all NHL rookies in points since the trade and appears like he's primed to be a big part of the Wild's next young core of players.
For him, it's been all about opportunity.
When the Wild acquired him, Donato was playing for Providence of the American Hockey League. Before that, he played in 34 games in Boston this season, scoring six goals and nine points in those games.
He has been in Minnesota every game since and has flourished.
"I've definitely learned the business side [of hockey this season], for sure," Donato said. "One thing I learned in Boston and in here is, it's a game of ups and downs. More than in college, more than any other level, there's a lot of ups and downs. One game you might be a plus-4 and have three assists and the next you're minus-3. For me, it's been an emotional roller coaster the whole year, but definitely the last two months, I've settled down."
Another storyline to follow tonight will be the NHL debut of Wild forward Nico Sturm, who will be in the lineup. His work visa issues all ironed out, Nico's parents, Gaby and Klaus, as well as his younger brother, Timo will be in attendance after flying in from Germany. They are also expected to be in Dallas for the season finale on Saturday.
His girlfriend, a Blaine native, will also arrive from Clarkson University, as will some of her family, so there will be plenty of people in the Sturm cheering section tonight.
Video: Sturm to make NHL debut vs Boston
Here's a look at morning skate:
In case you missed it
Here is today's Wild Warmup
Wild TV's Ryan Carter sat down with Mikko Koivu recently to discuss the captain's knee injury and how the early part of his rehab has gone. Really good stuff
Video: Webisode: Mikko Koivu rehab pt. 1
The Wild will recognize Securian Financial Stick Tap Salute recipients at tonight's game. Honorees have made big impacts in their local hockey communities
Video: Stick Tap Salute: Brian Stark
Here is how the Wild could line up tonight against the Bruins:
Ryan Donato - Eric Staal - Luke Kunin
Jason Zucker - Joel Eriksson Ek - Kevin Fiala
Jordan Greenway - Nico Sturm - Victor Rask
Marcus Foligno - Eric Fehr - J.T. Brown
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Brad Hunt
Anthony Bitetto - Greg Pateryn
The Bruins are landlocked into second place in the Atlantic Division and will open the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week against rival Toronto. Boston will have home ice advantage in what should be a thrilling series.
Boston is led offensively by Brad Marchand, who tallied a goal and an assist on Tuesday against Columbus, giving him 100 points on the season. Marchand's previous career best was 85 points, which he had each of the past two seasons.
Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak have been outstanding in injury-shortened campaigns. Both players have played in just 64 games, but Bergeron has 32 goals and 79 points while Pastrnak has 37 goals and 78 points.
The Bruins are expected to ice this lineup on Thursday:
Jake DeBrusk - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen - Trent Frederic - Karson Kuhlman
Marcus Johansson - Charlie Coyle - Zachary Senyshyn
Joakim Nordstrom - Noel Acciari - David Backes
Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk - Kevan Miller
Connor Clifton - Steven Kampfer
Fan Night Celebration
The Wild celebrate its fans on Thursday, and if you're attending the game, there will be plenty going on.
By using the "Check In To Win" feature in the Wild NHL App, fans attending will have the chance to win prizes from Caribou Coffee, Walmart and the Wild. Fans need to visit the Wild page in the official NHL App and under the "Info" section, select "Check In To Win" and enter their seat location once they are inside Xcel Energy Center to be eligible to win. Seat locations will be randomly selected throughout the game and Wild staff will deliver prizes directly to the winning fans in their seats.
Featured prizes include:
- Minnesota Wild player signed sticks and jerseys
- Caribou Coffee and merchandise
Gifts from Walmart including:
- $100 Walmart.com gift cards
- 55" Sony TV
- PlayStation 4
- Apple iPad
- Vizio Home Theater Sound System
- Canon Camera
- Dyson Cordless Vacuum
- KitchenAid Mixer
- Bose Headphones
Authentic, game-used goal pucks from the 2018-19 season will be available for purchase at the Minnesota Wild Foundation table located at Section 104 for $50. Select milestone goal puck sets and captains' goal pucks will be auctioned to benefit the Wild Foundation. Bidding for the pucks will open April 1 on the official Minnesota Wild NHL Auction page. The auction will close April 15.
The celebration continues with "Jerseys Off Our Backs." Fans will be selected randomly to receive game-worn Wild jerseys from that evening's contest, each delivered and autographed by the respective player in a special on-ice ceremony following the game. Five fans won the opportunity to participate in a "Jerseys Off Our Backs" experience with Marcus Foligno, Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin, Zach Parise and Jared Spurgeon through Minnesota Wild Foundation events and online auctions. More than $12,000 was raised through the auctions, with proceeds benefiting the Wild Foundation.
In addition, all fans in attendance will receive a commemorative team poster on the outbound, presented by FOX Sports North and Toyota.
Watching/listening to tonight's game:
- The contest will be televised on FOX Sports North
- It can be streamed live via the FOX Sports App
- It can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM, the Wild Radio Network or via the Wild NHL App
If you're headed to tonight's game, here's what to expect:
Video: Wild Vision: April 4 vs. Boston