With the WCHA Playoffs coming to Xcel Energy Center this weekend, the Minnesota Wild was forced to take a mini road trip for today’s practice. The club skated at Braemar Arena in Edina before returning to Saint Paul tomorrow to host Central Division rival, the St. Louis Blues.
Defenseman Marco Scandella will make his return against the Blues. The 25-year-old has missed nine games with an upper-body injury.
“We’ve done a pretty good job battling through some tough games without him, but he’s a real important player for our team and makes a big difference when he’s in the lineup,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “He’s coming back and jumping right into it, it will be a tough test for him tomorrow.”
Scandella will find himself with a familiar defensive partner, Jared Spurgeon. Jonas Brodin will move back alongside Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba will slide back with Jordan Leopold.
“We’re going to work well,” Scandella said about his blue-line partner. “He’s going to help me out there with a lot of talk. I haven’t been in a game for a little while, so just keep it simple early.
The blueliner is ready to get back into the action after missing about three weeks. He said he’s ready to play north of 20 minutes if that’s what the team needs from him.
“No worries now, I feel really good,” Scandella said. “I just want to come back and play hard and play hard minutes.
With a Scandella back in the lineup, defenseman Christian Folin will come out of the lineup. The blueliner scored his second goal of the season yesterday against the Washington Capitals. Yeo said it was a difficult choice to pull the 24-year-old out, but expects he’ll factor in at some point.
“He played really well, but that’s the look we’re going with tomorrow” Yeo said. “I’m quite certain he’ll get in again here.”
Forward Ryan Carter began practicing with the Wild this week, but isn’t quite ready for game action. With so many games and so few practices, it’s been tough for the forward to get much work with the team.
“He needs a little more practice time, he’s been out for quite a while,” Yeo said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re giving him a good chance to be sure he’s fully ready.”
Forward Zach Parise left the ice before the rest of the team, but Yeo said that he’s fine and will be ready for tomorrow. Parise had some tightness and thought it would be best to come off the ice.
This is the second meeting in a week between Central Division foes. Minnesota took last week’s contest, 3-1, thanks to a 41-save performance from goaltender Devan Dubnyk. He’ll be in net and have to be sharp against one of the League’s best teams.
“They’re a power house,” Yeo said. “They’re as strong as any team out there and they’re playing for first overall.”
Tomorrow’s game has playoff implications written all over it. If the season ended today, Minnesota and the Blues would meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blues are looking for the No. 1 overall seed in the Western Conference, trailing the Anaheim Ducks by a point, while the Wild holds a one-point advantage over the Winnipeg Jets for the first wild card spot.