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Rink Report: Busy Weekend Awaits; Folin to Return

Wild defenseman has missed the past three weeks with an upper-body injury

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- In the midst of a stretch of 20 games in 35 nights to close the regular season, efforts like Thursday's 3-1 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers are almost expected for the Wild. 

Players are tired, practices are rare and with the schedule condensed the way it is, solutions to find rest are few for coach Bruce Boudreau.

But just because an occasional clunker might happen during this stretch doesn't mean they are to become accepted. 

Video: Wild Preps for Vancouver

"Important games for us coming up this weekend, and obviously we want to respond with a better effort tomorrow," said Wild forward Eric Staal. "[We got a] chance to talk about some stuff today and hopefully come out with some better energy and respond with a good effort tomorrow."

A handful of players went on the ice for a skate on Friday, with most of the club's veterans staying off their feet. The Wild plays back-to-back games this weekend, including an early afternoon game on Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks.

After a late afternoon flight to Detroit, Minnesota will hit the ice for a late-morning start against the Red Wings on Sunday.

So despite a desire to get his team on the ice to clean up some issues that have crept into its game recently, Boudreau knew that a bulk of the learning on Friday would come through video review.

In that regard, he showed his team a game from mid-December when he said the Wild was playing some of its best hockey. Boudreau wanted to highlight some of the small, simple things it was routinely doing well through the middle portion of the season, hoping the group can get back to that over the final nine games.

"We looked at what we did and how we were successful at that time," Boudreau said. "When we're on top of our game, we're really simplified. We get [the puck] out [of our defensive zone], we get it in [to our offensive zone], we're not trying to be fancy. What's happened in the last 13 games, because we've scored so many goals, things were coming easy. Then, all of the sudden, we're trying to be really cute with the puck."

Folin expected back this weekend

Defenseman Christian Folin has been skating for a while now but is finally expected to return to action on Saturday. 

Folin has missed the past three weeks with an arm injury sustained on March 5 against the San Jose Sharks, but his return is coming at a good time. Gustav Olofsson has played each of the past two games, but is a lefty and throws off the left-right balance Boudreau prefers on the back end.

Video: Christian Folin Returns from Injury

Boudreau shuffled his defensemen around on Thursday in an effort to provide more balance, pairing Ryan Suter with Matt Dumba while re-uniting Marco Scandella and Jared Spurgeon.

If those pairings remain, or even if Dumba and Spurgeon swap spots, Jonas Brodin is expected to play with the right-handed Folin, a pairing that provided quality results for the Wild early in the season.

If Brodin and Folin can get back to that level of play before the postseason, it would certainly take more pressure off Suter and Spurgeon, who have taken on heavy minute loads.

"It's gonna be great to get back out there," Folin said. "I've been putting in a lot of hard work. It's been a tough almost three weeks, but I'm ready."

Folin also provides the Wild its most willing physical presence on the blue line.

Video: Bruce Boudreau Practice

"He's a big defenseman that can play physical when he's on top of his game," Boudreau said. "We certainly could use that."

Scouting the Canucks

Vancouver is nearing the end of a more than week-long five-game road trip, the final four games of which, against Central Division opponents. The trip began last Saturday with a 2-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers and continued Tuesday to Chicago, where the Canucks scored a 5-4 overtime win over the Blackhawks.

The St. Louis Blues defeated Vancouver 4-1 on Thursday and the trip will continue with the second half of back-to-back games on Sunday in Winnipeg.

The game marks the third and final regular-season meeting between the former Northwest Division rivals, but first in St. Paul. The Canucks won a crazy 5-4 game on Nov. 29 at Rogers Arena before the Wild won the return affair 6-3 on Feb. 4.

Much of the Canucks offense still runs through Henrik and Daniel Sedin, but All-Star Bo Horvat has emerged as one of the better young players in the NHL this season. While the Sedin twins are two of the three Canucks players to reach at least 40 points this season, Horvat leads the club with 20 goals and 47 points.

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