The Minnesota Wild will get defenseman Jared Spurgeon back when it has its second chance to clinch a spot in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, on Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks.
Forward Zac Dalpe, and defenseman Chirstian Folin, recalled from the Iowa Wild on Monday, will also both be in the lineup. It will Dalpe's Minnesota Wild debut.
Spurgeon has missed the past two games with a lower-body injury he sustained last Thursday against the Ottawa Senators. It came on Spureon's second shift of the game; the Wild played the final 57 minutes of regulation with five defensemen.
"We definitely miss him," interim Head Coach John Torchetti said. "He's a good 27-plus minute guy.
"Just responsible, and makes a good first pass. We talked about our exits from the other day that we addressed, and he just makes a calmer poise coming back, and cleaner exits on our breakouts."
Minnesota is five points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. Colorado has played one fewer game than Minnesota. A Wild win in any fashion on Tuesday would clinch a postseason berth for Minnesota, as would a Colorado regulation loss, or if both teams were to lose in overtime.
Colorado plays at 7 p.m. CT, at the Nashville Predators. Neither the Wild nor the Avalanche can pass Nashville, who is in possession of the first wild card spot.
Math and logistics aside, the Wild knows it has an opportunity to take care of business in front of its home fans in game number 81 of the season.
"A lot of people lost focus around here that, with our record, the last 25 games, we're one of the top-four teams in the NHL," Torchetti said. "Just got a little bit of a blip in the schedule, and we have to get back to work, and get to our hardworking ways."
Minnesota plays its final regular season game on Saturday against the Calgary Flames. The Wild knows should it find itself back in the playoffs, which would mark the fourth trip in as many seasons, using these two games to getting back to playing what it considers the right way, will be an important springboard into game number 83.
"It's all about tonight for me," Torchetti said. "The guys know that, moving forward, we have to get this game, and get into the playoffs, and just be playing hard down the stretch, and be playing playoff-type hockey every night for 60 minutes."
Spurgeon could play a big role in the Wild re-establishing its identity. Interim Head Coach John Torchetti praised his ability to make a good first pass, the beginning step to Minnesota's transition.
"We're just looking to keep the game a little bit simpler," Torchetti said.
Dalpe took line rushes during morning skate with Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker. Folin skated on a defense pairing with Nate Prosser, who has played the past two games after being a healthy scratch the seven before that.
"It's been a long time coming for me," said Dalpe, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip Nov. 5, only to return Feb. 18 and sustain a knee injury six days later.
Dalpe has been limited to eight games for Iowa this season.
"It's been a long year just battling injuries," he said. "Just no excuse not to be fresh now."
Folin, who has played 24 games for Minnesota this season, said he got a chance to play in all kinds of situations and lots of minutes in Iowa.
"It helps," Folin said. "Just being on the ice, and getting all the mental reps in all kinds of situations helps."
Torchetti said for a young player like Folin, the experience is valuable.
"It's confidence," Torchetti said. "If you're not playing — it's tough to have a young guy sitting in the stands. Then when he comes up here, he doesn't have to do anything special: just play 10-12 minutes, and keep it simple."
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Zach Parise – Mikko Koivu – Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter – Erik Haula – Jason Pominville
Jason Zucker – Charlie Coyle – Zac Dalpe
Chris Porter – Jarret Stoll – David Jones
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella – Jonas Brodin
Nate Prosser – Christian Folin