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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Tampa Bay

Road swing continues Thursday night as Wild takes on Lightning without defenseman Jared Spurgeon

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /
The essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild (13-11-4) at Tampa Bay Lightning (13-9-3)

Puck drop: 6:08 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

TAMPA, Fla. -- If the Wild is going to capture the magic it did inside Amalie Arena last March, it will have to do so shorthanded on Thursday night when Minnesota plays the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second game of a three-game road trip.

The Wild secured a 3-0 win here on March 7 in what was, without question, its most impressive win of the season. Minnesota outplayed the NHL's best team from a year ago in dealing the Lightning one of only seven regulation defeats on home ice in 2018-19.

But the Wild lineup that night had defenseman Jared Spurgeon in it ... this one will not, after it was announced Wednesday that he will miss the next two weeks with an upper-body injury. 

While it's bad news that he won't play the next couple of weeks, it's actually good news in that the timeline isn't as bad as was initially feared last night.

Video: Wild injury updates from Tampa

"It's not as daunting as you'd normally hear," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "We'll just go with that."

The team sent Spurgeon home on Wednesday and could recall an extra defenseman as insurance ahead of Thursday's game, but the expectation is that Nick Seeler will get a chance to re-join the lineup.

Seeler, who skated in 71 games last season, has been unable to get much ice time with the emergence of Carson Soucy on the back end, playing in just four games this season.

But his attitude hasn't wavered and he's continued to work hard in practice, so Boudreau said he's earned this opportunity to play again.

"It's tough on a guy who has really played three games," Boudreau said. "I said, 'just play. Have fun playing hockey.' That's what it's all about. Don't get caught up ... what's the worst that can happen to you? You're not gonna play anymore? Just play."

Minnesota may also be without centerman Mikko Koivu, who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

Koivu did not practice with the team on Wednesday, but is expected to take morning skate Thursday to see if he will be available to play against the Lightning.

Without Koivu, Boudreau made some changes with his forward group, moving Luke Kunin to Koivu's spot between Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala and moving Ryan Hartman from the fourth-line right wing to Kunin's third-line right wing position. 

Ryan Donato, a healthy scratch against the Panthers, skated on the fourth line right wing next to Marcus Foligno and Victor Rask. 

"I just looked at it and this is what looked good to me," Boudreau said. "Rask is doing a really good job in the position he's in. Kunin and Zach had success last year. It gives us, without changing too much up, a right-handed guy as the bumper on the power play. That's something we've needed."

The game on Thursday marks the start of a long stretch of home games for the Lightning, who will play three-straight and seven of their next eight at Amalie Arena. Between Dec. 5 and Dec. 29, Tampa Bay will play 11 of its next 13 games on home ice.

The Lightning snapped a three-game winless streak on Tuesday night when it won 3-2 in overtime against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena. 

Nikita Kucherov scored the overtime winner and enters the game red hot, having tallied at least a point in six-straight games and in 10 of his past 11 overall. During that 11-game span dating back to Nov. 8, Kucherov has six goals and 13 assists. 

Kucherov, who leads Tampa Bay with 30 points, is working towards a third consecutive 100-point season. He led the NHL with 87 assists and 128 points last season. 

Five Lightning players in all have tallied at least 20 points, including defenseman Victor Hedman (23), forward Steven Stamkos (22) and forward Brayden Point and Kevin Shattenkirk (20).

Andrei Vasilevskiy, last season's Vezina Trophy winner, is 10-7-1 to start the year, with a 2.90 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. 

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