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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Arizona

Three-game road trip concludes Thursday night at Gila River Arena

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /
The essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild (16-14-5) at Arizona Coyotes (20-12-4)

Puck drop: 8:38 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North, FOX Sports App

Listen: FM 100.3 KFAN, Wild Radio NetworkWild NHL App

Follow: @mnwild, @mnwildscribe; GameCenter

The Wild Warmup is presented by Bryant Heating and Cooling

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Wild concludes its historic stretch of road games on Thursday when it plays the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena.

When the final horn sounds on the contest Thursday, Minnesota will have played 23 of its first 36 games away from Xcel Energy Center. It's hoping that it can finish that stretch on a high note and salvage a road trip that has not gotten off to a good start.

Following a loss in Chicago on Sunday night, the Wild dropped a 3-2 contest to the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday night. It was the first time since the end of October that Minnesota had lost consecutive games in regulation. 

The Wild practiced here on Wednesday and coach Bruce Boudreau made some noticeable changes to his projected lineup. 

Zach Parise was moved away from Kevin Fiala for the first time in a while and put with Eric Staal and Mats Zuccarello, a spot that had been occupied by Jason Zucker, who was hurt in Chicago, did not play against Vegas and was sent home to Minnesota on Wednesday for further evaluation of a lower-body injury. Zucker is expected to miss significant time.

Video: Carson Soucy mic'ed up on the road

Ryan Donato, who has been the center between Parise and Fiala, has moved back to the wing and newcomer Luke Johnson will at least begin the game between Donato and Fiala.

Jordan Greenway, who skated on the top line in Vegas, is back with Luke Kunin on the third line, with Nico Sturm between them. Marcus Foligno, Victor Rask and Ryan Hartman have seen plenty of time together and are expected to be reunited on Thursday night.

"Trying to find fits again," Boudreau said. "You look to try and find the right fit and hopefully you catch lightning in a bottle with it. I thought we were just catching all the right fits and then all of the sudden, this happened."

Video: Rink Report: Wild at Coyotes

The "this," in this case, has been the rash of injuries sustained by key players just as the Wild was starting to play its best hockey of the season and just as the team's schedule was about to make a 180-degree turn.

After Thursday, Minnesota will play 18 of its next 22 games at Xcel Energy Center.

But it may have to do so without Zucker, Mikko Koivu and Joel Eriksson Ek, at least for the foreseeable future. 

The good news for the Wild is the potential return of defenseman Jared Spurgeon and the expected return of Devan Dubnyk against the Coyotes.

Spurgeon has missed the past seven games with an upper-body injury. He'll skate in the morning before the Wild makes a decision on his status for the game.

UPDATE (2:10 MT): The Wild has activated Spurgeon from injured reserve, meaning he is likely to play on Thursday.

Tweet from @mnwild: NEWS: We have activated Jared Spurgeon from the Injured Reserve and reassigned Brennan Menell to Iowa.

Dubnyk, who has been dealing with off-ice issues related to his wife's health, served as the backup goaltender against the Golden Knights on Tuesday but is expected to draw the start against his former club. If he does, it would be his first game action in exactly one month. 

Video: Devan Dubnyk close to returning to the crease

The Coyotes will welcome newcomer Taylor Hall to the desert on Thursday night. He was traded to Arizona from New Jersey on Monday and made his debut with his new team Tuesday in San Jose, where he assisted on the game-winning goal. 

Hall was introduced to fans in Arizona on Wednesday and will make his home debut against the Wild.

He joins an offensive group currently led by Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz, who lead the club with 24 points. Conor Garland has a team-high 12 goals.

Former Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper is 15-7-2 in 24 starts this season, posting a 1.97 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage.

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