The Minnesota Wild closes out a four-game road trip tonight against the Calgary Flames. Calgary is red hot on home ice, winning its past four games at the Scotiabank Saddledome. This will be the only game the Wild will play in Calgary this season and second of three meetings against the Flames. Minnesota has found success here recently, going 8-4-0 in its last 12 games.
As the Lighthouse reported yesterday, the Wild will go with a few new line combinations against the Flames.
Jason Zucker will re-enter the lineup for the first time in three games. Zucker understands that this is part of the process for young players and will try to make the most of his opportunity tonight. He has been a healthy scratch since Zach Parise came back from Injured Reserve.
“It was more about fit,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “Zach came back and everybody else at that time was going well, so he found himself as the odd man out.”
Zucker will skate with Charlie Coyle and Dany Heatley. The trio was together before Parise’s return and will get a chance at resuming some of that offense it found before this road trip.
The line of Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville was lethal in the third period against the Colorado Avalanche and will remain in tact to start tonight.
The third line will look a little different to start. Kyle Brodziak will center Matt Cooke and Nino Niederreiter will move onto the wing. Justin Fontaine moves to the fourth line with Erik Haula and Mike Rupp.
Tonight will be a bit of a homecoming for Fontaine, who is a native of Bonnyville, Alberta. He’ll have friends and family come down for the contest. Bonnyville is just north of Edmonton, so Fontaine grew up an Oilers fan. He spoke to WildTV about getting a chance to play against his childhood nemesis.
Yeo spoke highly about Fontaine’s game after the team’s morning skate. The 26-year-old is having quite the rookie season, third on the team in goals (12) and third in plus/minus (plus-7).
“He’s a great find for us,” Yeo said. “You’re talking about a guy who was undrafted and comes to the organization. You don’t really know what you’re going to get with him. Even when he having success in the minors—you don’t really know until you give him a chance because he’s a smaller guy. Then you see physically he’s capable of handling it, but also how intelligent he is on the ice.”
Torrey Mitchell will come out of the lineup and Stephane Veilleux will be the other healthy scratch.
After speaking to Jared Spurgeon after practice yesterday, Yeo said the blueliner isn’t ready to return. With Spurgeon out, the blue line has stepped up, especially Clayton Stoner, Nate Prosser and Keith Ballard.
“We would’ve had a tough decision today if he was coming back into the lineup because guys have elevated their game,” Yeo said. Yeo thinks that seeing Spurgeon close to returning has focused the other defenseman, which has led to solid play from depth players on the blue line.
Darcy Kuemper is expected to be back between the pipes tonight. Niklas Backstrom relieved him in the team’s loss against Colorado. Yeo said that it was more about trying to change momentum than Kuemper’s play and he’ll get a chance to rebound tonight against Calgary.