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Gabriel Expected To Debut, And More Changes

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

With the Wild back on the ice Monday after a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday and an off day on Sunday, more tweaks were made as Minnesota prepares to play the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center.

Kurtis Gabriel, who was recalled from Iowa two weeks ago before the Wild played the Jets in Winnipeg, but did not get in the lineup, was on the ice for practice and is expected to make his NHL debut on Tuesday.

"I played three preseason games, two were against Winnipeg, I warmed up in Winnipeg, now I'm playing them here, so obviously a trend, and looking forward to it," Gabriel said.

Gabriel was skating on a line with Chris Porter and Erik Haula in a spot where Christoph Bertschy finished the game against the Lightning. Bertschy was re-assigned to Iowa following the game, and Yeo said the 12th forward spot, now open with Zach Parise on Injured Reserve could continue to be swapped. 

"This game tomorrow will probably look a little different from our next opponent," Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "It gives us the ability with Gabriel to bring in a bigger body. The other thing it does, it gives us a chance here for the next little bit to see how some of these guys do."

Gabriel said he found out last night about the call-up, but had a good feeling it might be on the way. 

"I follow it pretty closely, so I had a good idea," Gabriel said. "I didn't work out after the game, and [Iowa Wild Head Coach John Torchetti] told me to take it easy last night."

Against a bigger Jets team, Gabriel is a good fit as the Wild can mix-and-match based on the profile of its opponent.

"It's no secret," Gabriel said. "I play physical, and they play physical, it's a rivalry game, things get chippy, and I'm here to help out."

Other Changes

Absent from practice was defenseman Marco Scandella, who will miss the game against the Jets due to personal reasons. 

Nate Prosser, who was out the last game with a back injury, will return to the lineup, and skate to the left of Christian Folin.

"We've been kind of rotating through with seven defensemen for the most part, and between him and [Folin], those guys have had a fair amount of reps on the left side," Yeo said. "I don't think it will be a huge adjustment."

Without Scandella, Jason Zucker was practicing on the top power play unit, with Charlie Coyle taking Zucker's spot on the second unit.

Defense, an area the Wild was focused on shoring up going into its past game, has been a major focus, especially without Minnesota's leading goal scorer, Parise.

"As a group we have to simplify things," Jared Spurgeon said. "He's a special player, and we can't replace a guy like that, but we have a lot of good players in this room as well, and they've been showing that they can score goals. We can't force things, but we just have to stick to our systems."

Having just played the Lightning and Steven Stamkos, and with upcoming games against the Dallas Stars and the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Wild will have its hands full when it comes to defensive responsibilities.

"It's not just us on the back-end," Spurgeon said. "With the forwards, the way they come back to let us stay up and have a good gap so they can't get speed or be as creative as they want to be, that's part of our game. Trying to be in their face, and not letting them get the rush-attack going."

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