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Sans Spurgeon, Defensive Posture Key For Wild

by Evan Sporer / Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild won't be at full strength on Tuesday against the Dallas Stars, but it will have one key player remain in its the lineup.

Captain Mikko Koivu, who left the Wild's practice on Monday due to discomfort, will suit up as the Wild looks to end a five-game losing streak (0-4-1) and get out of a slide that has seen it lose 10 of its past 11 (1-9-1).

Facing one of the NHL's top offenses, Koivu and the rest of the Wild's defensive game will take center stage at Xcel Energy Center.

"They know how to create, they know how to score, and we'll have to play good defense and limit them," Thomas Vanek said. "The last game (against Dallas) we held the lead pretty well. Again, it's a team you can't give a whole lot of chances to or they're going to bury you."

Minnesota will be without defenseman Jared Spurgeon on Tuesday, who left the Wild's game on Saturday against the St. Louis Blues with a deep bruise.

Short a defenseman, the Wild recalled defenseman Mike Reilly from Iowa on Monday, reassigning forward Tyler Graovac to make room.

"It's unfortunate those guys have to go down, but it's an opportunity for a lot of guys, including myself," Reilly said. "They're going to be hungry coming in, they're a fast team, a highly-skilled team that gets up-and-down the ice pretty quick."

Koivu — perennially known as one of the NHL's top defensive forwards — and the Wild match up against the NHL's second highest-scoring team in Dallas (3.21 goals per-game) missing Spurgeon, and already down defenseman Jonas Brodin, who broke his foot last week.

"We're going to need a lot help from our forwards tonight" Head Coach Mike Yeo said. "How they play with the puck, how they track back, the back pressure that we have, and obviously those guys are going to have to step up."

Only defenseman Ryan Suter has played more this season for the Wild against Dallas forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, second and fourth respectively in the NHL in scoring.

Of the Wild's forwards, it's Koivu who has played the most against Dallas' dynamic duo, with 26:08 of five-on-five time on ice against Benn, and 24:33 against Seguin.

Yeo did highlight Marco Scandella as a player who he said needs to have a strong game for Minnesota to be successful.

"Marco is going to be a huge piece to the puzzle tonight," Yeo said. " When you think of Marco, a lot of time you're thinking of the big shot, you're thinking of how he joins the rush, but for me, more than anything, when we're winning hockey games, Marco is a horse in the back end, and how he defends, how he separates guys from the puck, and how he helps us get to our game."

In the Wild's most recent game against Dallas — a 2-1 win at American Airlines Center — Scandella played the majority of his even-strength minutes against Benn and Seguin. His 7:33 against Benn, and 10:05 against Seguin were the highest among Wild defensemen.

Still, the Wild knows with the challenge Dallas presents the onus won't fall on one player.

"Obviously they're very offensive," Jason Zucker said. "They get their fourth and fifth guys in the rush a lot of the time, and as forwards you have to make sure you get back to make sure you're helping out any way you can."

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