‘Twas the day before holiday break, when all through Xcel Energy Center, the Wild was stirring, practicing to score a game winner.
The Wild looks to head into the holiday break with visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads, tonight hosting the Philadelphia Flyers. After two-consecutive overtime losses, the Wild will shake things up before taking three days off.
Forward Mikael Granlund will return to the lineup after missing Saturday’s 6-5 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators. Granlund was expected to go and participated in warmups, but was feeling ill and didn’t play. He skipped yesterday’s practice for an extra day of rest.
Minnesota will also insert Stu Bickel on the fourth line and Justin Falk on the blue line. With the addition of Bickel and Falk into the lineup, the Wild hopes to become a tougher team to play against.
Forwards Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine, and defenseman Nate Prosser will be the team’s healthy scratches. A day before the break, Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said the moves come at a good time for the players, who are not in the lineup, to reset.
“A lot of guys hearts are in the right place,” Yeo said. “But focus-wise and mindset-wise, this is where the break can come in great use.”
Although the team has failed to get the results in the win column, the team has been in tight games of late. Since Nov. 28, all but one of the Wild’s 10 outings have been decided by a single goal.
“For the mentality of the club, I think it’s huge for us to get a good game — 60 minutes, two points and go into the break on a good note,” forward Ryan Carter said. “We know we’re right there. The difference is just a couple of little things.”
Yesterday, Yeo said that the details of the team’s game have slipped of late. With three days off following tonight’s contest, the importance is intensified.
“I think it makes you a little more hungry to win,” Carter said. “It’s a matter of (smart line) changes, a little extra effort or being a little smarter — sometimes not trying to do too much ourselves.”
Backstrom In Goal
Goaltender Niklas Backstrom will get the start. He looks for a better result against the Flyers tonight. In only five career starts against Philadelphia, Backstrom is 1-4-0 with a 3.58 goals-against average and a .872 save percentage.