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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. Boston

Stretch run begins Saturday when Wild hosts Bruins at Xcel Energy Center

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /
The essentials

Who: Boston Bruins (29-10-12) at Minnesota Wild (23-21-6)

Puck drop: 7:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North, FOX Sports App

Listen: KFAN FM 100.3, Wild Radio NetworkWild NHL App

Follow: @mnwild, @mnwildscribe; GameCenter

The Wild Warmup is presented by Bryant Heating and Cooling

ST. PAUL -- The Wild returns to action following a nine-day layoff on Saturday when it hosts the Boston Bruins at Xcel Energy Center.

In the week and a half since it was last on the ice, Wild players scattered around the continent, some in search of fun in the sun, others looking to disconnect from hockey. They reconvened in St. Paul on Friday and were put through the paces of an hour-plus long practice by coach Bruce Boudreau. 

"When you're used to [playing every day] in the middle of the season and then you take nine days off, it's a big jump when you get back out there," Boudreau said. "I wanted them to get used to the physical part of the game again and then skating, finding your legs."

One challenge the Wild will have is facing a Bruins team that got back into action on Friday, a 2-1 win at Winnipeg. While Boston will be dealing with back-to-back games, the rustiness in their game will be gone.

It's part of the reason why the Wild had plenty of skating and some battle drills on Friday in an effort to work some of the cobwebs out. 

"I think there will be the initial back to game pace, but I don't think it will take long [to adjust]," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "I think timing. We should talk a lot with our linemates on the ice, try to make it easier, closer together, stay together. Just simplify the game early."

In terms of lines, the WIld looked very much like it did heading into the break. Parise skated with Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello, with Jason Zucker, Victor Rask and Kevin Fiala taking rushes on the second line. The third line of Marcus Foligno, Joel Eriksson Ek and Luke Kunin remained in tact, as did Jordan Greenway, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Hartman. 

On the back end, Ryan Suter was with Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba were one pair and Carson Soucy and Greg Pateryn formed a third. 

Devan Dubnyk was the first goaltender off the ice and is expected to draw the start on Saturday. 

Video: Wild returns to practice following break

"I hope it's not tough for any of them to get back into it. I hope they're hungry," Boudreau said. "I look at it, when we left for break, we were five points out of a playoff spot, I look [Friday] and we're five points out of a playoff spot. That's encouraging to me because other teams have played games."

That number did move one higher with action on Friday night. The Wild begins the stretch run six points back of the Arizona Coyotes for the second wild card spot in the West but with three games in hand. Three teams stand in between the Wild and the Coyotes, so Minnesota has work to do. 

The Wild did get some help from the Bruins on Friday. Winnipeg is one of those three teams, and Minnesota sits two points back of the Jets but with two games in hand. A win on Saturday would move the Wild out of seventh in the Central Division. 

Chicago, the next team above Winnipeg, comes to St. Paul on Tuesday. 

Boston came out of the break the same way it win, securing two points over the Jets. The Bruins' 72 points are second-most in the NHL behind League-leading Washington, who won in Ottawa on Friday to get to 75. 

The Bruins have one of the top lines in hockey, with David Pastrnak's 37 goals tied with Alex Ovechkin for the League lead. Linemate Brad Marchand is fifth in the NHL with 45 assists. The third member of that group, Patrice Bergeron, has missed nine games but has 42 points in 43 games, including 22 goals, which is second on the team.

Tuukka Rask returned from injury on Friday in Winnipeg, so it seems likely the Wild will face Jaroslav Halak. He's 12-6-6 in 24 games this season (23 starts), with a 2.47 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.

Traffic alert

If you're coming to the game on Saturday, be aware there are several events taking place in downtown St. Paul that will affect both traffic and parking availability. 

The Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade will impact traffic between Lowertown and Rice Park along 5th Street between Wall and 7th from 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. 

Travel by bus or by LightRail is encouraged. Thanks to the Wild Ride program, you can get a complimentary ride on Metro Transit buses and METRO lines with a downloadable pass to each Saturday home game at Xcel Energy Center. For more information and to download the pass, click here.

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