The Minnesota Wild will be without forwards Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek for at least Games 1 and 2 of its first round series against the Dallas Stars.
The Wild practiced in Minnesota on Wednesday before leaving for Dallas with the series beginning on Thursday. Minnesota was again without Parise and Vanek, its first and fourth-leading goal scorers, respectively.
Both have upper-body injuries, and both will be difficult for the Wild to replace come puck drop Thursday night (8:30 p.m. CT; FOX Sports North, NBCSN, SN360, TVA3) at American Airlines Center.
"When we're missing a player like him it's more about everyone else," Mikko Koivu said of Parise. "It's also playoffs so you need depth, scoring-wise, and in every area of the game."
Parise missed the Wild's regular season finale against the Calgary Flames April 9, and has not been on the ice since. In his absence, the Wild shuffled its lines in practice on Wednesday, its final tune-up prior to Game 1.
Vanek has been out for the past two weeks, last skating with the Wild in its game against the Detroit Red Wings April 1. He has missed four of the past five games.
Also without forward Erik Haula, who remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury, Mikael Granlund, who had been centering Parise, moved into Haula's usual spot between Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville.
Interim Head Coach John Torchetti said it's likely Haula will be out Game 1. He is traveling with the Wild to Dallas.
"We all know how great of players they are, and what they can do on the ice, but this is where we're at right now," Granlund said. "It's all about getting ready for tomorrow, and making sure we're ready, and we're not giving up anything easy."
Torchetti said he has liked Granlund's game of late.
"For the time I’ve been here, he’s gradually gotten more ice time," Torchetti said. "He's been a great player for us from our defensive zone all the way to the offensive zone. His game is only going to get better. Yeah, we're counting on him to have a good playoffs."
The Wild had used the Niederreiter-Haula-Pominville line against its opponent's top scoring line over the past few months. For Dallas, that means Jamie Benn, Cody Eakin, and either Patrick Sharp or Tyler Seguin, who is recovering from a lacerated Achilles, and practiced for the third straight day on Wednesday.
"Obviously we know they have a lot of skill on their team," Granlund said. "But I've been playing with Nino and [Pominville] before, and whatever the matchups are, let's just go out there and enjoy it, and play hard."
There are many young players in the Wild's locker room, like Granlund, who have a fair amount of playoff experience despite their lack of overall years in the NHL.
The Wild is hoping, without some of its key veterans, its younger core can continue to step up and help fill the void left by these injuries.
"A couple guys I hear were saying it’s a clean slate," Torchetti said. "But it’s really not. It’s their fourth playoffs. So we have some experience, and I think we should utilize it."
With Granlund shifting to a new line, the Wild's third line in practice was Chris Porter, Zac Dalpe, and David Jones.
"We can bring some physicality and some speed, so we'll try and key on that," Jones said. "[Dalpe], he's a guy that has jumped right in and done a great job. We've had some good chemistry, and we'll try to bring a lot of energy for our team."
Here is the Wild's lines from practice:
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Charlie Coyle
Nino Niederreiter – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Chris Porter – Zac Dalpe – David Jones
Ryan Carter – Jarret Stoll – Justin Fontaine